Civil Rights Law At Center Of Commissioner’s Comments On Race

(Memphis)A coalition of African-American leaders held a news conference Friday to show their support for Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks.

They said the focus should not be on the style Brooks used to state her remarks, but on Title VI, a federal law aimed at making sure minorities aren’t discriminated against in winning government contracts.

During the county commission meeting Brooks said, “You can’t leave Black folk out and comply with Title VI.”

Brooks wanted to prevent a Memphis company from doing roofing work on the Peggy Edmiston County Building.

The job she said should go to a company that hired African Americans not just Hispanics.

She said, “It’s about Black folk in Shelby County trying to get employment.”

WREG obtained the Title VI survey companies wanting to do business with Shelby County government must fill out.

It asks specifics about the race of employees, white, non-white and other.

It doesn’t ask for a break down of non-whites and others.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy who’s also a University of Memphis law professor and former U.S. Justice Department lawyer says it doesn’t have to.

The group of ministers that held the news conference today to state their support for Brooks and her comments admitted the words she chose, aren’t words they would have used.

However, the say her message is on point about Blacks and contract jobs.

Shelby County doesn’t break down what segment of minorities are getting its contract work. LaSimba Gray, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, says it should.

However, he said he realizes the word minority in Memphis includes more than just African Americans because demographics have changed.

“Sure it has and we applaud that. The point of it is we are not fighting other minorities. We are fighting for fairness for ourselves,” said Gray.

Gray pointed to disparities in contracts awarded during the building of the Pyramid and FedEx Forum as proof minorities are often overlooked.

WREG found out no minority contractors bid on the roofing job at the county building in question.