Racial Justice

Racial Justice

The Racial Justice Program aims to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people who have historically been denied their rights on the basis of race. The Program is committed to upholding racial equality and combating racism in all forms through litigation, community organizing and training, legislative initiatives, and public education to address the broad spectrum of issues that disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. More

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

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With these words, the authors of the Declaration of Independence outlined a bold vision for America, a nation in which all people would be free and equal. 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, employment, educational and other spheres, the forced removal of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of those of African descent marked the beginnings of a system of racial injustice from which our country has yet to break free. From public educational institutions where students of color are too often confined to racially isolated, underfunded and inferior schools, to a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates people of color, to anti-immigrant legislation that codifies racial discrimination, and housing starkly segregated by race and class. The dream of full equality remains an elusive one.

While the law provides equal opportunity in theory, it is too often denied in fact. The Racial Justice Program brings impact lawsuits in state and federal courts throughout the country, 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. Throughout these efforts, we strive to educate and empower the public.

Additional Resources

Race and the Death Penalty (2003 resource): The color of a defendant and victim's skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America. People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. A moratorium of the death penalty is necessary to address the blatant prejudice in our application of the death penalty.

Race & Ethnicity in America (2009 map): A map of where the ACLU is fighting racial and ethnic discrimination.

New ACLU Report Details Pervasive Racial Discrimination in America (2007 press release): The ACLU released a comprehensive analysis of the pervasive institutionalized, systemic and structural racism in America. The report, Race & Ethnicity in America: Turning a Blind Eye to Injustice, is a response to the U.S. report to the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released in early 2007. The U.S. report, which the ACLU called a "whitewash," swept under the rug the dramatic effects of widespread racial and ethnic discrimination in this country.

Reports to UN CERD on Race and Ethnicity In The United States (2007 resource): Reports to UN CERD on Race and Ethnicity In The United States

Assessing Racial Discrimination in America (2008 blog): The 72nd Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is meeting in Geneva. Readers of this blog will have noticed blogging from the ACLU's 10-person delegation at the meeting, addressing issues such a voting rights, racism, and the unique problems women of color face. Preceding this trip was the publication of a "shadow report" written by ACLU attorneys and staff, in response to the U.S. government's official report (PDF) on the state of racial discrimination in the country.

Court Ignores America's Grim History of Racial Discrimination (2010 blog): It would seem, at least according to a recent federal court decision, that referring to a black man as "boy" has no racial implications whatsoever, but is merely "conversational."

Most Popular

Race and the Death Penalty (2003 resource): The color of a defendant and victim's skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America. People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. A moratorium of the death penalty is necessary to address the blatant prejudice in our application of the death penalty.

Race & Ethnicity In America (2007 podcast): Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program, discusses the report, Race & Ethnicity in America: Turning a Blind Eye to Injustice, with ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright and ACLU of Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill

Words From Prison: Drug Policy, Race and Women's Incarceration (2006 resource): Profiles of women incarcerated for drug crimes.

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