Suffolk University

ACLU: An Important Resource

I recently attended a lecture given by Rahsaan Hall, director of Racial Justice Program for the ACLU of Massachusetts. I found this lecture to be extremely interesting and relative to the current racial climate of our country.

The American Civil Liberties Union is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the constitution and laws of the United States.” The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk. The organization also lobbies for policy positions such as eliminating discrimination against people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

As the Director of the Racial Justice Program, Hall typically fights for issues that pertain to the Bill of Rights. He specifically advocates for First , Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendment rights. This program uses resources, reputation, and advocacy platforms to address racial justice issues. Hall also spoke about the difference that a District Attorney can make in our Justice System. A District Attorney can do things such as stop prosecuting a case and dismiss it, screen a case before it gets to the clerk’s office and leverage guilty pleas.

In reference to the topic of democratic erosion, I believe that the ACLU is a a great resource for the United States to use to slow down backsliding. The United States Freedom in the World 2019 Report states that there are still disparities in equal treatment of different groups such as the LGBTQ+ community.

The Trump administration reversed a 2016 guidance document that had directed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity, and has argued that existing legal protections against sex discrimination do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity, as some courts and government agencies have claimed. In 2017, Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military, but it had not taken effect as of late 2018 due to challenges in federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union is a great resource and tool for those experiencing such discrimination. The organization can not only provide legal counsel but advice when someone in is faced with discrimination. The ACLU can help on an individual level but also on a nation-wide level to advocate for policy change to reverse the effects of equal treatment.

1 Comment

  1. Nicholas Edwards

    April 18, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Mackenzie-
    I think you have a excellent post here, and it certainly connects to democratic erosion.
    First, this lecture sounds extremely interesting especially for those of us studying government with strong interests in Law. It is saddening to see how ignorant the current Trump administration can be, especially when it comes to topics like you discussed within your post. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody who is willing to serve our country and the President’s ban on transgender people serving in the military is simply absurd.
    With that being said, I think your point that the ACLU would assist within our own democratic backsliding here in the United States is very valid. Like you touched upon within your introduction the ACLU is considered “our nations guardian of liberty” and members from this organization across the nation work tirelessly day in an day out to protect the rights of all in America. The ACLU firmly believes in equality to all and that could prevent many notions of democratic erosion that are frequently occurring in America. Although already an extremely busy organization, the ACLU has plenty of opportunity to become involved within other notions of democratic erosion. I am curious what the ACLU’s impact would be on party extremism. We are seeing so much divide right now within our major political parties, and that directly leads to democratic backsliding. I am convinced the ACLU could have an adverse effect within this movement.

    Glad you enjoyed the event.

    Nick Edwards
    Suffolk U

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