Systemic Equality: Addressing America’s Legacy of Racism and Systemic Discrimination

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Systemic Equality: Addressing America’s Legacy of Racism and Systemic Discrimination

Since the nation’s founding, the fabric of American society has been woven with deeply racist policies that directly harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. These policies have led to an unequal system where marginalized communities have been systematically locked out of opportunities in jobs, education, and housing.

 

Systemic Equality is a racial justice agenda that seeks to address America’s legacy of racism and systemic discrimination through advocacy efforts and legal strategies that aim to ensure equal access and opportunity for all.

Last updated on April 27, 2022

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At a Glance

With just a glance at the numbers, the deep-rooted and longstanding damage caused by systemic racism is clearly apparent.

Pillars of Systemic Equality

Reconcile the Past

The scars created by hundreds of years of chattel slavery and racially discriminatory government policies are deep and will require real resources and investment in communities that have been harmed.

Reparations

It’s time that our country lets a government-funded commission study the issue to determine the feasibility of providing reparations to affected people. No one has done that type of detailed study, and the only mechanism to fully understand the impact of giving reparations is to pass legislation and start the process of reconciliation.

Decriminalizing School Discipline

The presence of police in our country’s schools is both symptomatic of and perpetuates the treatment of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other youth of color through a punitive, criminal lens. Black and Brown students, like all students, deserve to be educated to become active participants in our democracy, and that criminalization of youth in schools fundamentally harms this ability. We seek to remove the physical presence of police from schools, and to overturn the laws used to criminalize Black and Brown students.

Activating North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act

In 2009, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA), which allowed defendants to strike the death penalty from their cases if they could show that racial discrimination was a factor in their prosecution. The law came as a response to a series of exonerations of Black people who were falsely convicted of crimes they did not commit by all-white or nearly all-white juries and took a bold step to address what was suspected to be deeply troubling evidence of racism infecting the death penalty. Through our innovative litigation as a result of this law, we are working to fundamentally change the prosecution of capital cases.

Learn more
An older person holding the hand of a younger person with red overlay on image.

Reparations

It’s time that our country lets a government-funded commission study the issue to determine the feasibility of providing reparations to affected people. No one has done that type of detailed study, and the only mechanism to fully understand the impact of giving reparations is to pass legislation and start the process of reconciliation.

Decriminalizing School Discipline

The presence of police in our country’s schools is both symptomatic of and perpetuates the treatment of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other youth of color through a punitive, criminal lens. Black and Brown students, like all students, deserve to be educated to become active participants in our democracy, and that criminalization of youth in schools fundamentally harms this ability. We seek to remove the physical presence of police from schools, and to overturn the laws used to criminalize Black and Brown students.

Activating North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act

In 2009, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act (RJA), which allowed defendants to strike the death penalty from their cases if they could show that racial discrimination was a factor in their prosecution. The law came as a response to a series of exonerations of Black people who were falsely convicted of crimes they did not commit by all-white or nearly all-white juries and took a bold step to address what was suspected to be deeply troubling evidence of racism infecting the death penalty. Through our innovative litigation as a result of this law, we are working to fundamentally change the prosecution of capital cases.

Learn more

Extend Empowerment

Barriers to full participation in the democratic process undermine Black and Brown voters’ true political power, ultimately denying their right to elect candidates with shared values who can enact the policies that create equality.

Protecting and Expanding Voting Rights

The ongoing dilemmas within our democracy clearly stem from the legacy problems of our republic: Systematic efforts by politicians to erect voting barriers and to discriminate against voters of color have tipped the balance of power. We must take urgent action to secure the right to vote, particularly for voters of color who continue to be targeted by suppressive tactics.

Redistricting

For decades, legislatures and officials have manipulated their maps to suppress the votes of minorities, too often minimizing the representation of Black and Brown voters in their communities. Our strategy to combine data analytics and maps with advocacy and litigation will ensure people are electing their representatives — not the other way around.

Building Power in the South

We are significantly investing in building organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South, a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. The collective of our 12 Southern affiliates will create a regional strategy around strengthening voting rights and democracy, ensuring reproductive justice, and fighting for reparations.

A black woman in a ballet studio with pink overlay on the image.

Protecting and Expanding Voting Rights

The ongoing dilemmas within our democracy clearly stem from the legacy problems of our republic: Systematic efforts by politicians to erect voting barriers and to discriminate against voters of color have tipped the balance of power. We must take urgent action to secure the right to vote, particularly for voters of color who continue to be targeted by suppressive tactics.

Redistricting

For decades, legislatures and officials have manipulated their maps to suppress the votes of minorities, too often minimizing the representation of Black and Brown voters in their communities. Our strategy to combine data analytics and maps with advocacy and litigation will ensure people are electing their representatives — not the other way around.

Building Power in the South

We are significantly investing in building organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South, a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. The collective of our 12 Southern affiliates will create a regional strategy around strengthening voting rights and democracy, ensuring reproductive justice, and fighting for reparations.

Build Prosperity

Gaps in wealth between Black and white households expose accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception.

Canceling Student Debt

No other group of Americans is as burdened by student loan debt as Black Americans. Canceling up to $50,000 of student debt for eligible borrowers would further our goal of systemic equality by redressing the inequalities built into our higher education financing system, while substantially increasing wealth for Black and Latinx families.

Ending Legacy Admissions Practices

Legacy admissions policies overwhelmingly benefit white and wealthy students whose family member is an alumni of the college or university they’re applying to, while excluding first generation, low-income, and students of color from accessing higher education. Ending the practice of legacy admissions is a critical step to help address our country’s long history of race discrimination and systemic inequality in higher education.

Accessing Financial Services through Postal Banking

The racial wealth gap persists, in part, because of the widespread lack of access to basic financial services like bill paying, check cashing, and small loans for Black consumers. The result is that they pay an average of $2,880 per year on substandard, alternative financial services such as check-cashing services and pay-day loans. Allowing individuals to access payroll check cashing, domestic money transfers, and bill payment through the U.S. Post Office can address this crisis by linking more Americans to essential financial services at an affordable rate and ensuring more communities, specifically those in Black neighborhoods, have easier access to these services.

Internal Alignment with Systemic Equality External Agenda

We are proactively working to align these goals internally, making a commitment to ensure Black people are promoted, elevated, and more prominent across the organization. This includes prioritizing Black-owned and Black-led contractors when hiring vendors and investing in Black-owned financial institutions and businesses.

A black woman wearing a graduation cap and gown with a green overlay on image

Canceling Student Debt

No other group of Americans is as burdened by student loan debt as Black Americans. Canceling up to $50,000 of student debt for eligible borrowers would further our goal of systemic equality by redressing the inequalities built into our higher education financing system, while substantially increasing wealth for Black and Latinx families.

Ending Legacy Admissions Practices

Legacy admissions policies overwhelmingly benefit white and wealthy students whose family member is an alumni of the college or university they’re applying to, while excluding first generation, low-income, and students of color from accessing higher education. Ending the practice of legacy admissions is a critical step to help address our country’s long history of race discrimination and systemic inequality in higher education.

Accessing Financial Services through Postal Banking

The racial wealth gap persists, in part, because of the widespread lack of access to basic financial services like bill paying, check cashing, and small loans for Black consumers. The result is that they pay an average of $2,880 per year on substandard, alternative financial services such as check-cashing services and pay-day loans. Allowing individuals to access payroll check cashing, domestic money transfers, and bill payment through the U.S. Post Office can address this crisis by linking more Americans to essential financial services at an affordable rate and ensuring more communities, specifically those in Black neighborhoods, have easier access to these services.

Internal Alignment with Systemic Equality External Agenda

We are proactively working to align these goals internally, making a commitment to ensure Black people are promoted, elevated, and more prominent across the organization. This includes prioritizing Black-owned and Black-led contractors when hiring vendors and investing in Black-owned financial institutions and businesses.

Increase Access

In order to level the playing field so that every person can achieve their highest potential, we must ensure access to the tools necessary to thrive.

Expanding High Speed Internet Access

Internet access is a basic necessity in today’s world, yet 15 percent of American households — including one-third of all Black households — do not have a broadband subscription, cutting them off from employment opportunities, education, health care, and other everyday needs. Ensuring access to broadband is an essential step to achieve systemic equality.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

To address our country’s legacy of systemic racism, we must dismantle housing discrimination and segregation. We must take active steps to tackle systemic racism within our housing institutions to expand equal access to housing opportunities for everyone. Equal access to housing is a civil right.

Eliminating Barriers to Reentry for Returning Citizens

Incarceration and criminal convictions often prevents people from obtaining jobs, housing, and educational opportunities long after their sentence has ended. The vast majority of these barriers disproportionately impact people of color, particularly Black people. Eliminating these restrictions will improve access for future opportunities.

Ending Algorithmic Bias

Artificial intelligence systems are reshaping core social domains, from criminal justice and education, to healthcare and beyond. AI is built by humans and too often racial bias can appear in its design, development, and implementation. Establishing laws and regulations that mandate robust auditing for equity, transparency, and accountability, alongside litigation to stop and remedy civil rights violations, and direct engagement with technology companies can guarantee racial equity.

Learn more
A little girl sits at a laptop with blue overlay on image.

Expanding High Speed Internet Access

Internet access is a basic necessity in today’s world, yet 15 percent of American households — including one-third of all Black households — do not have a broadband subscription, cutting them off from employment opportunities, education, health care, and other everyday needs. Ensuring access to broadband is an essential step to achieve systemic equality.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

To address our country’s legacy of systemic racism, we must dismantle housing discrimination and segregation. We must take active steps to tackle systemic racism within our housing institutions to expand equal access to housing opportunities for everyone. Equal access to housing is a civil right.

Eliminating Barriers to Reentry for Returning Citizens

Incarceration and criminal convictions often prevents people from obtaining jobs, housing, and educational opportunities long after their sentence has ended. The vast majority of these barriers disproportionately impact people of color, particularly Black people. Eliminating these restrictions will improve access for future opportunities.

Ending Algorithmic Bias

Artificial intelligence systems are reshaping core social domains, from criminal justice and education, to healthcare and beyond. AI is built by humans and too often racial bias can appear in its design, development, and implementation. Establishing laws and regulations that mandate robust auditing for equity, transparency, and accountability, alongside litigation to stop and remedy civil rights violations, and direct engagement with technology companies can guarantee racial equity.

Learn more

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