Mostly-White Ohio Suburb Gives In, Allows Mostly-Black Bus-Riders Into Community

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After being threatened with the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds, politicians in a mostly-white Ohio community are backing down in their quest to keep out mostly-minority bus-riders from a nearby city.

For years, the Beavercreek (OH) City Council has fought the construction of Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority bus stops. If built, the stops would give bus commuters, nearly three-quarters of whom are minorities, access to a shopping mall and other nearby attractions in Beavercreek, a largely-white suburb.

However, that decision came under scrutiny after a local group, Leaders for Equality in Action in Dayton, filed a discrimination claim in August 2011. The Federal Highway Administration agreed with the group, finding that Beavercreek’s actions violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by harming minorities who relied on the bus to get to work, medical treatment, school, or commerce. If the city didn’t reverse itself and allow the construction, the FHA ruled, it could lose more than $10 million in federal highway funds.

Though the city council had put off a final decision for months, they finally backed down this week. On Monday, they voted 5-2 to allow bus stop construction to proceed, though not without gripes from some councilmembers. According to the Dayton Daily News, councilwoman Melissa Litteral (R) “said the potential loss of federal funding would be ‘catastrophic,'” and only voted in favor because “Our backs are to the wall.”

Despite suggestions by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and others that systemic racism is a thing of the past, the Beavercreek episode is another demonstration not only of the existence of discrimination at a local level, but also the need for federal intervention to combat it.