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ACLU unveils campaign to end systemic racism

The Hill logo The Hill 2/9/2021 Justine Coleman
a man holding a stop sign: ACLU unveils campaign to end systemic racism © Getty Images ACLU unveils campaign to end systemic racism

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Tuesday unveiled a campaign focused on ending systemic racism in the U.S. through advocating for economic and overall equality for Black and Indigenous people of color.

With its campaign titled "Systemic Equality," the ACLU is turning its attention from defending free speech to addressing racial inequity and discrimination, and seeking to "dismantle a system deeply rooted in racist policies, practices, and attitudes that harm Black and Indigenous people of color."

The Systemic Equality campaign will focus on pushing President Biden's administration and Congress for several initiatives, including protections for voting rights, student loan debt forgiveness and laws on reparations. The organization will also promote fair housing, expanded high-speed internet access and banking services at the post office.

The ACLU plans to commit $10 million over the next two years to its southern affiliates to increase its advocacy in the South, where most Black Americans live, for voting rights, reproductive justice and reparations. The organization's southern affiliates currently employ 165 full-time staff with a more than $26.9 million budget.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement that the organization is "not alone in recognizing that America is long overdue for a reckoning, a third and final Reconstruction."

"We are committed to using our nationwide network of litigators, advocates, and supporters, the strongest ACLU we have ever known, to dismantle white supremacy," he said. "Whether it is voter suppression, inequitable broadband access, or the racial wealth gap, we are clear that 'we the people' must truly include all of us."

In a letter to Biden calling for action, Romero cited the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"We are laser-focused on what Charlottesville and the Capitol attack had in common: white supremacy," he said. "We believe that, more than any other single force, racial hierarchy and racial caste are woven into the very fabric of our society. By failing to reckon with the horrific legacy of slavery, America created systems predicated on white supremacy, systems that routinely and intentionally harm and kill citizens of color, especially those of African and Native descent."

The ACLU plans to announce the campaign's full agenda during a virtual livestream on Thursday, which will include advocates across the country.

The campaign comes after protesters took to the streets last summer to demonstrate against racial inequality and police brutality, specifically after the police-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.

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