On January 6th, white nationalists attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to subvert the democratic process and overturn the results of a free and fair election.
This attack on our democracy was shameful and horrifying – but it was not new. The racism that fueled this violence is rooted in the very founding institutions of America, which were built on lands stolen from Indigenous people and on the backs of Black and Brown people.
The insurrection on January 6th lends new urgency to our work to dismantle white supremacy and confront racial injustice.
Here in Louisiana, we have brought intense focus to the work of challenging institutional racism: from our efforts to end mass incarceration and combat voter suppression to our Justice Lab initiative, which is bringing cases against racist policing across the state.
For me, the first Black woman to lead the ACLU of Louisiana in its 65-year history, this mission is more than personal – it is existential. Black and Brown people have been fighting for our right to exist, to not be brutally murdered for who we are, since the founding of this nation. And throughout, we’ve been subjected to enslavement, lynchings, police killings, and mass incarceration.
Earlier this week the ACLU’s national board again took the extraordinary step of calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump and yesterday the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president.
But we know that the work of dismantling white supremacy must continue long after he leaves office. Indeed, many sitting members of Congress have excused and even endorsed Trumps’ brand of racism, hatred, misogyny and xenophobia. Many of the same lawmakers who objected to certified election results are now calling for our country to unite. They suggest that holding the President accountable for his treacherous actions would further divide the nation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fractures in our democracy emanate from powerful lies and the silence of those who had the power to stop them. We must confront the hard truth that what happened last week in Washington is America, and it will not change without a committed and sustained effort by all of us.
Lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson has advocated for a national process of truth and reconciliation to eradicate the white supremacy upon which this nation was founded. Stevenson famously believes that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve done wrong.
I believe this with all of my heart.
In the same vein, this nation and our democracy is more than its compounded sins, but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to be greater – to get to higher ground – when the people who comprise our nation – especially those in positions of power and in government – willfully conceal these transgressions. Reconciliation also demands that we enact remedies for the harm that has been caused.
In 2021, the ACLU of Louisiana plans to intensify our efforts to challenge institutionalized racism across the state through litigation, advocacy, and most importantly – people power. We’ll need you with us, so please watch this space for more ways to get involved and to use the power each of us has been given to bend the arc toward justice, and to create equitable, safe, fair communities for all of us.