Human Relations Commissions: Relieving Racial Tensions in the American City
DescriptionDuring the 1950s, amid increased attention to the problems facing cities-such as racial disparities in housing, education, and economic conditions; tense community-police relations; and underrepresentation of minority groups-local governments developed an interest in "human relations." In the wake of the shocking 1965 Watts uprising, a new authority was created: the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission. Today, such commissions exist all over the United States, charged with addressing such tasks as fighting racial discrimination and improving fair housing access.
Brian Calfano and Valerie Martinez-Ebers examine the history and current efforts of human relations commissions in promoting positive intergroup outcomes and enforcing antidiscrimination laws. Drawing on a wide range of theories and methods from political science, social psychology, and public administration, they assess policy approaches, successes, and failures in four cities. The book sheds light on the advantages and disadvantages of different commission types and considers the stresses and expectations placed on commission staff in carrying out difficult agendas in highly charged political contexts. Calfano and Martinez-Ebers suggest that the path to full inclusion is fraught with complications but that human rights commissions provide guidance as to how disparate groups can be brought together to forge a common purpose. The first book to examine these widely occurring yet understudied political bodies, Human Relations Commissions is relevant to a range of urban policy issues of interest to both academics and practitioners.
Columbia University Press
8 September 2020
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