May 20, 2022

Violence is not a symptom, it is the foundation of white supremacy.

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

I am heartbroken for the communities targeted by the recent surge in white supremacist violence and about its repercussions as more people worry about leaving their homes and gathering together in community. The unrelenting assault of white supremacist violence has been a defining feature of this country throughout our history, targeting and oppressing communities of color. ACS condemns in the strongest possible terms such violence and the racist ideology driving it, and we would hope to see all our elected officials do the same.

I had the same reaction as so many when I learned that the assailant in Buffalo had been taken into police custody alive. It is hard not to imagine that the outcome would have been different if the assailant had been Black. If the police can take into custody a white person armed and dressed for combat, it begs the question why so often an altercation with police proves fatal for Black men. The injustice and tragedy are glaring.

We need to be clear when we talk about this. White supremacist violence includes, but also far exceeds the actions of select individuals. This extremist and racist ideology permeates our laws, our institutions, and underpins political factions in this country. It is the ideology, the means, and the end goal for swaths of this country’s population.

There are so many drivers working to perpetuate white supremacy, including the decisions of our highest court. An example of one set of dominos: the Supreme Court’s erosion of the Voting Rights Act has led to egregious voter suppression laws and gerrymandered maps being enacted in dozens of states, which in turn have resulted in the marginalization of voters of color and in the election of extremist legislators who advocate for and support extremist policies. For instance, legislators who oppose any type of gun safety measure, who support legislation to bar teachers from discussing racism in the classroom, and who reject police reform.

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court may give gun advocates yet another victory when it decides New York State Rifle Association v. Bruen. If the Court’s oral arguments were any indication, the Court’s conservative supermajority seems likely to make it that much harder for those states that are committed to ending gun violence from regulating the public carry of firearms. Such a decision would constitutionally bar states from passing common sense gun safety measures that could reduce gun violence in our communities.

Efforts by the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority to rewrite the 2nd Amendment to allow nearly unfettered access to guns, including public carry, and to prohibit common sense gun violence prevention are a lethal combination. It’s a combination that will result in more violence against people of color and make it even more dangerous for the Black community and other historically marginalized communities to publicly participate in political discourse for fear of reactionary and white supremacist violence. This includes voting, participating in peaceful protests, or even going to the supermarket.

The kaleidoscope of challenges can make it difficult to know where to start to combat white supremacy and to advance a multi-racial democracy. Here are three ways that ACS is taking action: 1) we are advocating for Supreme Court reform to redress the Right’s packing of the Court that has resulted in a conservative supermajority hellbent on using the Court for partisan gain; 2) we are mobilizing voters around down-ballot races that directly contribute to safeguarding democracy and civil rights, including state attorneys general and state court judges; and 3) we are committed to Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT).

We are committed to TRHT because we have to reckon with how white supremacy has and continues to shape our laws and impact our communities. We believe the legal profession must be active participants in TRHT and acknowledge the role that our profession has played in perpetuating laws that entrench racial inequality. I am grateful for all the work our chapters and our members are doing to reckon with racial inequity and support the comprehensive reforms needed to achieve a genuinely multiracial democracy. We will continue to advocate for national, state, and local TRHT efforts to address historic wrongs and to reform our current laws and institutions to advance racial equity.

Racial Justice, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Reform, Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation, Voting Rights