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A dynamic shift at the ACLU

Melvin B. Miller
A dynamic shift at the ACLU
“If not now, then when?”

The American Civil Liberties Union, better known as the ACLU, has launched a commitment to end systemic racism in America. Its past objective has been simply to battle civil rights issues in the courts. After decades of confrontations, it has become apparent that this scope of opposition to racial discrimination is inadequate to provide equality for Blacks and indigenous people of color.

Life in America has been challenging for Blacks. Whenever there is a general problem, Blacks have the greatest difficulty. For example, the hospitalization of Blacks from Covid-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is almost three times greater than among whites. And the death rate for Blacks is 1.9 times the rate for whites.

This disparity exists also in family income where the difference is substantial. Median family income for Blacks in 2020 was just over $41,000 compared with more than $70,000 for whites. Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system that results in the disparate imprisonment of Black males contributes to this economic plight.

A primary example of this is research that has concluded 5% of illicit drug users are Black, yet they are 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated.

Over the years, Blacks have campaigned against racial discrimination and have tolerated the abuse from whites because the Declaration of Independence and the goal of a government that is at least philosophically committed to democracy is worth the endurance and the mistreatment. Blacks worked diligently over the years to bring about a peaceful change that was consistent with the principles of democracy.

Then on Jan. 6, a despotically oriented president encouraged his followers to attack the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying the election results that would establish that Joe Biden won the presidency and Donald Trump lost. The insurrection violated the sanctity of the nation’s Capitol, aroused fear and anxiety among members of Congress, and led to the injury of an estimated 140 police officers and 5 deaths.

The House of Representatives has impeached Trump for inciting the insurrection but only seven Republican senators found him guilty as charged. Since Trump had lost the election he was already removed from office, but a two-thirds vote to establish guilt would have enabled a majority of the Senate to deny Trump the right to run for any high federal office in the future.

The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have saved the democracy from collapse. As Blacks now fight for survival under Covid-19, we must still support efforts to extend rights important to Black interests. Some progress will occur simply by changing policies implemented by Trump. For example, the Justice Department has dropped the suit opposing multiracial admission to Yale.

Other projects will require more effort. The ACLU has just launched a new “Systemic Equality” campaign to end systemic racism in America. Anticipated issues of concern will be:

• Protection of voting rights

• Student loan debt forgiveness

• Availability of fair housing

• Expansion of high-speed internet access

• Greater financial services through the post office

ACLU National Board President Deborah Archer asserted, “If we want a future free from the systemic racism that has defined our history, we will need an ambitious, nationwide and holistic agenda to confront the policies that conspire to keep us from that future…”

The ACLU commitment to achieve racial justice deserves broad support. With ACLU’s more than 100 years of experience and established staff across the country ready to lead the efforts, this is a good time for all patriots to become involved in the ACLU’s racial justice agenda.

ACLU, civil rights, opinion, racial inequality