Civil Rights Activism Is Still Needed after All These Years
Washington, Adrienne T., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights marked its 50th anniversary yesterday. In the span of my lifetime, I had hoped that such an organization would no longer be necessary in American society.
Sadly, this is not the case. The LCCR is needed just as much this year as it was in yesteryear. Despite obvious progress, the indisputable facts indicate that minorities in this country continue to suffer inequitable treatment in employment, education and housing.
And, in the critical area of criminal justice, "racial inequality is growing, not receding," according to the findings of a LCCR study released yesterday.
Wade J. Henderson, the group's executive director, agrees that the organization is still needed to combat racial discrimination and the vestiges of segregation. The LCCR - founded in 1950 by A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Arnold Aronson - is a coalition of 180 national organizations working to advance civil rights law and policy.
As evidence of their current value, LCCR released a compelling study laden with "startling" statistics indicating that "the United States has two separate, unequal standards of justice for whites and minorities."
One of the most shocking statistic indicates that three out of every 10 black males born in the United States today will serve time in prison. And Hispanics represent the fastest-growing group being imprisoned - their rate of incarceration has doubled during the past decade.
"The color of a person's skin is a better indicator of how long a person's sentence will be, whether or not the person will be pulled over by police, whether or not a person is given the death penalty, what kind of plea bargain a person is offered or whether or not a juvenile is tried as an adult than any other indicator," wrote the authors of "Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System."
Mr. Henderson, speaking yesterday at the National Press Club, said, "This report should make it clear to law enforcement, the court system and to elected officials we need to re-examine the way we pursue criminal justice in this country."
However, he added, "We're not suggesting that we establish laws that take it easy on minorities. We want fairness."
Laura W. Murphy, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the disparities are not justified.
She noted that minority youths are more likely than whites to be treated as harshly as possible at each step in the criminal justice system even when compared only with whites youths of similar age, gender, offense and record.
Based on data from the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, academic studies and research conducted by civil rights organizations, the comprehensive study indicates among other disparities that although blacks and whites have the same rate of drug use, blacks constitute one-third of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted. …