home arrow OPINIONS arrow Lawyers guarding our civil rights

AP Political Videos



Login Form






Lost Password?
No account yet? Register
DIGITAL EDITION
Lawyers guarding our civil rights PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rep. John Conyers, Jr   
Saturday, 23 February 2013

john_conyers_web.jpgAt a time when our nation needed its legal community to step forward and join in the struggle for equality, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was born.

I was privileged to be present in the East Room of the White House on the day that President Kennedy urged a group of 244 lawyers to use their training and influence to further the goals of the civil rights movement.

 

Within weeks, the formation of the Lawyers’ Committee was announced as attorneys from around the country heeded the call of the President. Fifty years later, the Lawyers’ Committee remains in the vanguard of both domestic and international initiatives to protect the rights of diverse communities.

 

 While there is no question that America has made substantial progress over the last 50 years in creating a more just society, we cannot say that serious challenges to achieving the American dream do not exist for large segments of our society. I ran for Congress in 1964, a time when we battled Jim Crow-era poll taxes and institutionalized discrimination.

 

 In those days, the battle lines were clearly drawn and easy for anyone to see. Successful litigation and legislation have largely ended the practices of institutional discrimination and the Lawyers’ Committee has played an important role. However, as the civil rights movement has expanded beyond race, we have seen a return of discriminatory practices that continue to challenge the goal of equality under the law.

 

The institutional memory found at the Lawyers’ Committee is vital to ensuring that our society is not revisited by old discrimination in a new package. Its work during the 2012 election cycle, for example, was critical in

 

protecting the voting rights of millions of Americans.

 

 Just as Jim Crow-era poll taxes were designed to erect barriers to the ballot box, the current wave of voter purging, citizenship and identification schemes were intended to make it difficult for young, minority and older Americans to equally participate in the political process. This organized and well-financed campaign to subvert the election process is ongoing and will require a combination of litigation and legislation to ensure that our campaign finance system and election laws reflect the important principle of equal participation in the political process.

 

While voting rights remain the touchstone in the quest for equal rights, millions are fundamentally deprived of their basic liberty by a criminal justice system in a race to incarcerate. The United States has the largest prison population in the Western world, with 2.25 million people behind bars. This figure illustrates the greatest inequality facing the nation. Sadly, more than 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities.

 

 For the African-American community, these statistics are devastating, with one in every 10 Black men in their 30s in jail or prison on any given day.

 

A felony conviction can stifle economic independence by restricting voting rights, job prospects and access to government- sponsored training programs and subsidized housing. In communities already devastated by unemployment and a lack of educational and economic opportunity, the prison pipeline has created a lost generation.

 

 As progressive advocates like the Lawyers’ Committee move to address inequality in the 21st Century, the outstanding question for me is whether Congress can shift its focus to tackle the root causes underlying poverty. I fear that the drive to cut blindly entitlement programs — from the Second Chance Act to Head Start and Community Services Block Grants — runs the serious risk of exacerbating the economic isolation of poor communities and their related civil rights burdens.

 

Ultimately, we must act to break the persistent link between poverty and the criminal justice system.

 

Ending inequality in America is a battle that can be won and, although the barriers are still largely the same as those of the 1960s, our approach in the 21st century must not lack the strength and courage which brought us those earlier victories.


John Conyers Jr. is a U.S. representative from Michigan. This article is part of a series commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. For more information, visitlawyerscommittee.org

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.

busy
Last Updated ( Saturday, 23 February 2013 )
 
< Prev   Next >
 
Microsoft reveals Siri-like Windows Phone featureMicrosoft reveals Siri-like Windows Phone feature
NEW YORK — Microsoft unveiled a new virtual assistant for Windows Phone devices last Wednesday as it seeks to gain tra...
Read more...
Google Glass, good for cooking, needs InternetGoogle Glass, good for cooking, needs Internet
NEW YORK — Google Glass is like a fickle friend. Surprises await, such as the time it took a photo of my ceiling while...
Read more...
FTC says operators of jerk.com deceived consumersFTC says operators of jerk.com deceived consumers
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission says the operators of a website called Jerk.com are the ones behaving badl...
Read more...
‘Rio 2’ dazzling but overloaded ‘Rio 2’ dazzling but overloaded
A vivid and delightful animated spectacle, Rio 2 is chock-full of colorful 3-D wonder and jubilant musical numbers set ...
Read more...

News Article Comments

NRA-backed ‘warning-shot’ law on Scott’s desk
The proposed law changes deal with threatening to use deadly force, warning shots are the use of deadly force. The changes will actually water down the SYG law a bit like suggested by Taryvon Martin ...
Miami Gardens chief from North Miami
Congratulations and welcome to the City of Miami Gardens!
Doctors say prepare kids for summer camp
As a camp Director of Swift Nature Camp , I understand and see all the benefits of camp each and every summer. However, it is important to pick the right camp, especially in Fla. At this time they a...
Minority Groups defend Florida's Gay marriage ban
The kettle once called the pan black, the ignorance and arrogance of this group is mind blowing
National Civil Rights Museum reopens at site of King shooting
So happy to see this important museum reopen. Let's hope the politics stay out of the way of success.
Minority Groups defend Florida's Gay marriage ban
Can these groups not see the foolishness of their stance? Ignorance is not always bliss when you're so concerned with what other humans lives. Don't like gay marriage? Don't get gay married. DuH!
Workers to mark MLK assassination anniversary with rally
We cannot forget this important anniversary. Dr. King was murdered partly because of this strike.
Washington Park in need of improvement: OIC offering assistance
thanks for sharing this buon gi bay gio | may tinh de ban | tri ho |
Broward mayor’s success a tribute to late father
What a Great story! I stopped reading the article to say, "This is news that is Current, Local, about Living Legends and their descendants contributing to the African Diaspora. Keep Telling The Stor...
Minority Groups defend Florida's Gay marriage ban
Oh the shear hypocrisy of Blacks and Hispanics not supporting equal rights for all. We should be ashamed for using the same techniques used on us to deny rights to others which are guaranteed by the c...
Mall project a big break for 2 women
Congratulations are in Order! You BOTH Work Hard and Smart, and know how to have Fun while doing it. Your Intelligence and Hearts of Gold Will Pay off....GOD'S ABUNDANT BLESSINGS
Mall project a big break for 2 women
Your enthusiasm, drive and insight is truly inspiring. I wish you bot! many years of great achievements! Keep up the great work!
Mall project a big break for 2 women
What an awesome job ladies! This is the type is professionalism and success that motivates me and my business venture. I'm truly proud of you both. Keep up the fantastic work!
Broward mayor’s success a tribute to late father
Good story, anyone should be applauded for turning around their situation. But sometimes people don't act like they know where they came from and have not done anything for their community except to a...
Mall project a big break for 2 women
Congrats Ladies! Job well done!
Mall project a big break for 2 women
Congratulations Ann Marie!!! I'm so proud of you!!! Way to go! Keep your passion, and God will do the rest! Love you!
Mall project a big break for 2 women
I am so proud of both of you ladies! What a great example and a great job! I am most proud of Ann for defying the stereotypes and proving awesome things do come from the muck! Much continued success!
Miami Gardens: Don’t cut us out
If I were Ross I would move the team and dump the stadium. It is obvious Miami Gardens no longer appreciates what the Dolphins bring to the area but rather collect that guaranteed check. Great example...
Clinton says she's still considering future plans
Mushtaq Dean In this interview session, a woman showed her desire that Hillary should try to win the highest position and represent female population. She was single in her physical appearance but was...
The young are trapped by obsession with wealth
This is a well-conceived and well-written article and does, indeed, express my observations as well as my sentiments. In July, I will be on a panel at The Futurist Conference in Orlando discussing the...

The most influential African American weekly newspaper in South Florida

Beatty Media LLC