On Tuesday, December 9, lawmakers and civil rights leaders testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on the current state of civil and human rights in the United States.
The hearing came on the heels of grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., that failed to indict White police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, unarmed Black men, and focused heavily on the need for reforms to end the harmful biases against people of color in our justice system.
During the hearing’s first panel, Sen. Cory Booker, D., N.J., and Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D. Ill., and Keith Ellison, D. Minn., gave testimony on the discrimination minority communities face when dealing with law enforcement, and called for an end to racial profiling. Gutierrez shared how he was profiled while entering the U.S. Capitol in 1996 when he was told by police that he did not look like a congressman.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, testified during the second panel, and discussed how people of color are falling behind according to nearly every measure of progress in the United States – including in education, unemployment, voting rights, and incarceration rates.
“Our justice system is in crisis. Racial and ethnic bias persist at every stage, from policing to trial to sentencing and, finally, to re-entry,” Henderson said. To combat such discrimination, Henderson called for commonsense reforms to prohibit discriminatory profiling, demilitarize local police, and establish police accountability.
Cedric Alexander, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, also testified during the second panel (read their testimony here).
While our country should celebrate how far we’ve come, we must acknowledge that, as Henderson noted, “stubborn obstacles to full inclusion and opportunity remain for our communities, and we’ve failed to establish the justice and equality that we all seek.”
Watch a video of Henderson testifying below: