Overall, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law applauds key issues addressed by President Barack Obama during his first State of the Union Address. We celebrate his statement that his “administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.” The Lawyers’ Committee is working with the administration to ensure that the Department of Justice’s Employment Section once again carries out its mission as a leader in combating discrimination by public employers. At a time when unemployment is at record levels, particularly for minorities, the Lawyers’ Committee also applauds President Obama’s commitment to ensuring that all Americans can have the opportunity to participate in our nation’s economy.
As President Obama acknowledged, one in 10 Americans cannot find work, and many Americans “wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response.” In response, President Obama has called for a new jobs bill. This bill must provide targeted solutions to address the sobering reality that the unemployment crisis is felt disproportionately by minorities and institutional biases must be addressed.
President Obama also spoke about education (primary/secondary and higher education), but the specifics of his proposals for primary and secondary education are still vague. As these proposals move forward, we would like to ensure that civil rights protections for all children are guaranteed and that there is a focus on diverse and integrated classrooms. Simply supporting more charter or magnet schools is not an acceptable alternative for diversity in the classroom.
The issue of climate change was briefly addressed by the President. The Lawyers’ Committee agrees that Congress needs to pass climate legislation. However, any bill must ensure that attempts to reduce emissions and support alternative energy do not exacerbate the pollution burdens hundreds of minority and low-income communities already bear.
As President Obama stated, “A new decade stretches before us … Let’s seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.”