Blog of Rights


Parker is director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, leading its efforts in combating discrimination and addressing other issues with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Parker oversees work to combat the “School-to-Prison” pipeline, the profiling of airline passengers subjected to searches and wrongfully placed on watch lists and the racial bias in the criminal justice system. Prior to joining the ACLU, Parker was the chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in the Office of New York State Attorney General under Eliot Spitzer. He previously spent 14 years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Parker has also worked with the New York Legal Aid Society. He teaches Race, Poverty and Constitutional Law at New York Law School. He graduated from Harvard Law School and Middlebury College.

Living in Parallel Worlds

Living in Parallel Worlds

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 4:01pm

It is difficult to convey how painful it is to live in a world in which nothing you do is as important as the color of your skin.

Honoring Heroic African-Americans

Honoring Heroic African-Americans

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 3:27pm

For far too many African-Americans, the nation's aspirations remain a dream deferred.

Rolling Back Diversity: What's at Stake if Race is No Longer a Consideration in College Admissions?

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 4:51pm

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case challenging race in the admission process at the University of Texas risks taking a giant step backward in ensuring diversity in academic institutions. At stake in Fisher v. the University of Texas…

Remembering Dr. King's Dream as Voters Go to the Polls in South Carolina

Remembering Dr. King's Dream as Voters Go to the Polls in South Carolina

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 8:49am

Today voters are going to the polls in South Carolina to exercise their most fundamental democratic right: the right to vote. This week we celebrated the life and work of Martin Luther King, and in doing so we recall his championing of the Voting Rights…

Racial Inequities Five Years after Katrina

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program & Marjorie Esman, ACLU of Louisiana at 3:05pm

A conversation between Dennis Parker and Marjorie Esman about Hurricane Katrina and the racial injustices that it exposed to the rest of the country.

Dennis Parker: Let me begin the conversation by asking you, Marjorie, as a New Orleans …

Shirley Sherrod, and a Meaningful Discussion of Race

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 5:49pm

As described in Ben Smith’s Politico article “So much for that ‘conversation’ on race,” the events leading to the firing of Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department…

Stimulus Funds Must Acknowledge Employment Gap

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 9:00am

(Also published on Daily Kos.)

Widely regarded as the last opportunity to enjoy summer with a three-day weekend of cookouts and trips to the beach, Labor Day, the United States Department of Labor’s website informs us, was originally…

Brown Anniversary a Chance to Renew Our Commitment to Equality

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 3:22pm

Each landmark anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education invites us to answer two questions. The first involves a retrospective focus on Brown in the context of the decisions that came before it and the social changes that it engendered. This question seeks to find out how important Brown really was. The second question requires taking stock of where we are now and how far we have come since 1954 in our pursuit of racial justice. This week marked the 55th anniversary of the first Brown decision. Coming as it does in a year that witnessed the inauguration of the first African-American president, those questions seem even more important. At the same time, the answers become more complicated and nuanced.

Brown was decided at a time when most American schools were segregated as a result of explicit legal requirements, or by a series of policies and practices — including rampant housing segregation — that imposed a virtual system of apartheid upon American society. Segregation in education was just one manifestation of that system. Restrictions based on race, color and ethnicity created barriers to housing, patronizing restaurants and other public accommodations, voting and even marriage. By confronting and rejecting the dishonesty and hypocrisy in the doctrine of "separate but equal" in the area of public education, the decision became a keystone in the civil rights movement of the succeeding decades, which saw court decisions and legislation aimed at addressing discrimination in its many forms. Brown was instrumental in initiating many of the civil rights advances that occurred in its wake. It is also true that but for it and measures like the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the scores of cases interpreting the 14th Amendment, the conditions that lead to the election of an African-American president could not have occurred.

But what, exactly, does Barack Obama's election say about how much we've progressed since Brown? Having an African-American in the nation's highest office suggests we have travelled an enormous distance. A careful look at the state of race in the United States, however, suggests we still have a long way to go to achieve the level of equality envisioned by Brown. Sadly, many of the concerns raised during previous Brown anniversaries — about injustices like racial profiling and the absence of equal access to quality education, employment and housing — are still too much with us.

American NGOs Brief CERD Panel

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 10:23am
This afternoon, American NGOs had the first opportunity to present to members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Representatives covered a broad array of issues arising from a range of geographical areas. Although…
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