When the Lawyers’ Committee was founded in 1968, the nation was reeling from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and decades of blood, sweat and tears at home and abroad. Barriers to many of the liberties we take for granted today were explicit and rampant. Resistance to change of the status quo equally matched resistance to racism and discrimination. Yet, out of the churning embers of protest and defiance came a collective awakening that in order for this nation to live up to its credo of liberty and justice for all, civil rights had to be codified into law. In the ensuing years, the mantle of civil rights has been passed from cause to cause and generation to generation and, since the Lawyers’ Committee founding, attitudes and beliefs have clearly changed. Our nation’s chief lawyer is an African American who credits the March on Washington with his opportunity to become Attorney General. We have an African American family in the White House elected by a definitive majority of the American people. What these defining moments have reinforced is that the yearning for equity and justice is triumphant when people are motivated for change.
Our focus at the Lawyers’ Committee is to keep this forward momentum going. We expand this historic progression for change by rallying the private bar to partner with us in protecting civil rights in the courtroom and through the legislative process. In these efforts, we begin with the premise that the equality of all human beings is a given – it is equal access and treatment under law that must be vigilantly protected and, wherever threatened, achieved. Such is the advocacy that will challenge the racial and economic disparities that remain ensconced in financial institutions, corporations, educational settings, the criminal justice system, and immigration courts thwarting the ability of many individuals to achieve their full potential.
We live in a time of great possibility where tools like social media and other new technologies enable people of like mind to gather in virtual town halls, spread the word about inequities, debate strategy, test messaging and, together, demand redress. We are emboldened by our collective power and wisdom because despite occasional setbacks, the tides of change are in our favor, moving us steadily toward shelter from the storms of injustice and disparate treatment.
Kimberly Thomas Rapp