What's at Stake

The authors of the Declaration of Independence outlined a bold vision for America: a nation in which there would be equal justice for all. More than two hundred years later, it has yet to be achieved.  Though generations of civil rights activism have led to important gains in legal, political, social, educational, and other spheres, the forced removal of indigenous peoples and the institution of slavery marked the beginnings of a system of racial injustice from which our country has yet to break free. 

Deep-seated systemic racism and inequities that disadvantaged communities of color are still woven into the fabric of our institutions today— from education and housing to our criminal legal system.  Systemic racism permeates the starkly segregated world of housing. In our public schools, students of color are too often confined to racially isolated, underfunded, and inferior programs. Our criminal justice system disproportionately targets and subjects people of color to police brutality, incarcerates them and imposes numerous collateral consequences,  and criminalizes poverty. The dream of equal justice remains an elusive one.

The Racial Justice Program strives to create a world where “we the people” truly means all us — this means dismantling systemic racism and working to repair centuries of harm inflicted on communities of color.  The Racial Justice Program brings impact lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country, taking on cases designed to have a significant and wide-reaching effect on communities of color. In coalition with ACLU affiliates in each state, other civil rights groups, and local advocates, we lobby in local and state legislatures and support grassroots movements. Through these efforts, we strive to educate and empower the public on a variety of issues, including race as it relates to criminal justice, economic justice, and inequality in education; affirmative action; and American Indian rights. 

Current Issues

Race and Criminal Justice

Racial bias in our criminal justice system keeps more black people on probation and in prison than ever before. The ACLU's Racial Justice Program works to reform policies that unfairly target people of color.

Race and Economic Justice

For much of the country’s history, formal and explicit racial restrictions prevented people of color from accessing the mainstays of economic life, including employment and homeownership. Focusing especially on issues relating to credit and homeownership, the Racial Justice Program uses litigation and other advocacy to remedy deeply entrenched sources of inequality and ensure that access to opportunity is not allocated according to race.

Race and Inequality in Education

Over 60 years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, but educational inequity continues to plague students of color in under-resourced and overpoliced schools nationwide. Through strategic litigation and advocacy campaigns, the ACLU Racial Justice Program works to promote initiatives that help ensure access to high-quality education and facilities for all students and to challenge policies that criminalize students for minor misbehavior in school.

Affirmative Action

The ACLU Racial Justice Program actively supports affirmative action to secure racial diversity in educational settings, workplaces, and government contracts, to remedy continuing systemic discrimination against people of color, and to help ensure equal opportunities for all people. As part of this commitment, we are working to defend affirmative action in states that are threatened by a civil rights rollback.

American Indian Rights

American Indian tribes have suffered discrimination and injustice at the hands of the government since the country's founding, and our government's heinous treatment of American Indian tribes over the last several centuries reverberates to the present.


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