The American Civil Liberties Union this week called on President Biden to “dismantle white supremacy” and address what it calls a national “legacy of racism” by, among other things, backing the group’s call for a slave reparations committee and reducing or eliminating student debt.
Forgiving up to $50,000 in student loans is part of the civil-rights group’s “Systemic Equality” package, a collection of proposals that also calls for broadening internet access, expanding voting rights and reducing housing discrimination.
In announcing the push, ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said the U.S. is “long overdue for a reckoning, a third and final Reconstruction.
“We are committed to using our nationwide network of litigators, advocates and supporters, the strongest ACLU we have ever known, to dismantle White supremacy,” the 55-year-old New York lawyer said. “Whether it is voter suppression, inequitable broadband access or the racial wealth gap, we are clear that ‘We the people’ must truly include all of us.”
In a letter to Mr. Biden, the nonprofit urged him to rally behind an agenda that lines up with some of Mr. Biden’s own campaign promises and focuses on proposals that have gained in popularity with the rise of the Democratic Party’s left-wing.
The group warned that the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol showed the fragile nature of U.S. democracy.
“We are laser-focused on what Charlottesville and the Capitol attack had in common: white supremacy,” Mr. Romero said in the letter. “We believe that, more than any other single force, racial hierarchy and racist caste are woven into every fabric of our society.
“By failing to reckon with the horrific legacy of slavery, America created systems predicated on White supremacy, systems that routinely and intentionally harm and kill citizens of color, especially those of African and native descent,” he said.
It marks the first time the civil-rights group has engaged in the national conversation over student debt.
“We felt we could not fully tackle the obstacles that impede racial equality in this nation without addressing debt burdens, especially those that arise as Americans pursue educational advancement,” said Ronald Newman, ACLU’s national political director. “Black families, and in particular Black women, are disproportionately burdened with student debt.
“Canceling up to $50,000 of student debt for eligible borrowers would further our goal of Systemic Equality by redressing the inequalities built into our higher education finance system, help reduce the racial wealth gap and secure future financial stability for people of color,” he said.
The ACLU’s push seeks to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the 1965 law that required mainly Southern states to undergo special scrutiny before changing their voting laws.
The ACLU is calling for bolstering access to broadband internet, and voicing its support for Mr. Biden’s push to expand the Child Tax Credit.
They also are calling on Mr. Biden to revive the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule — which the Trump administration rescinded — that targeted racial housing discrimination and segregation, and require the United States Postal Service to offer basic banking services.
And they want Mr. Biden to back legislation that would establish a “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment, but Mr. Newman said the Biden administration is listening.
“They have expressed interest in almost all the policies we have proposed, including our voting rights recommendations, and we are scheduling additional discussions,” Mr. Newman said.
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