race and law

  • August 30, 2010
    Guest Post

    A conversation between Dennis Parker, ACLU Racial Justice Program Director, and Marjorie Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director, about Hurricane Katrina and the racial injustices that it exposed to the rest of the country.
    Dennis Parker: Let me begin the conversation by asking you, Marjorie, as a New Orleans resident and rights and liberties advocate, what you think was the most important lesson learned from the disaster?

    Marjorie Esman: Katrina showed the world what we here always knew: New Orleans is a city divided by race and class. Those divisions played a major role in everything that followed in aftermath of the flood. Still, we and the rest of the country were shocked by the images of thousands of poor black people trapped in terrible conditions and the never-ending stories of abuse. The ACLU did a report bringing to light the police abuse, racial profiling, housing discrimination and the dangerous lack of planning at the Orleans Parish Prison that disproportionately impacted the black population.

    DP: Sadly, we didn't learn the lesson that systematic discrimination and inequality exist not only in New Orleans but in the United States as a whole. Katrina wasn't the first time that inequality was revealed, and sadly, it won't be the last. Remember how surprised everyone was 20 years ago when statistical evidence confirmed what communities of color had long known, that black and brown people are subjected unfairly to racial profiling? But I'm not sure we learned any lasting lessons. Look at the extreme "show me your papers" law in Arizona that basically requires police to racially profile Latinos. Where are we five years later in New Orleans?

  • July 22, 2009
    Cambridge police have dropped disorderly conduct charges against the preeminent Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr., but plenty of discussion has emanated over the controversial arrest. Professor Gates, Harvard's leading scholar on African American history, told The Washington Post that he'd like a "one-on-one" with the officer who arrested him at his home in the early afternoon last week, after a neighbor called 911 to report that two black men appeared to be trying to forcibly enter the home. Gates, with the help of his driver was trying to open the front door, which was jammed. Gates also told The Post that he wanted an apology from the officer and that the incident would propel him to study racism in the criminal justice system. He concluded by telling The Post that he had no ill will toward the neighbor who called the police. "If she saw someone tomorrow that looked like they were breaking in, I would want her to call 911. I would want the police to come. What I would not want is to be presumed to be guilty. That's what the deal was. It didn't matter how I was dressed. It didn't matter how I talked. It didn't matter how I comported myself. That man was convinced that I was guilty."

    A statement issued by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, who is representing Gates, is available here. Gates also talked with the Root here.