Racial & Economic Justice
The ACLU of Northern California recognizes that race intersects with all of the critical social justice and civil rights issues of our time; that white supremacy and colonial settlerism precede the founding of the United States and continue to have devastating impacts today. One way they play out is through oppressive systems and unjust policies intended to dispossess people of land, educational opportunities, and economic prospects.
The Racial and Economic Justice Program (“REJ”) at the ACLU of Northern California works to repair the current and historic harms wrought by race-based segregation, discrimination, and deprivation of economic and other opportunities. Economic justice is essential to meaningful participation on an individual level and to true freedom and equality on a societal level. The REJ team does this by creating genuine and intentional relationships with impacted communities to deploy resources (e.g., policy implementation, impact litigation, technical assistance) where needed to bring about lasting, systemic change.
The ACLU of California protects the constitutional rights to equitable educational opportunities for all children. We focus on ensuring that the public education system provides exceptional education to our most marginalized students, and that all decisions are centered on student need and success.
The ACLU of Northern California recognizes that the educational system in the U.S. was built on a foundation of white supremacy, attempted cultural genocide, and racial capitalism (e.g., redlining, occupational discrimination/segregation, wage theft). Public school education continues to serve the goals of racial oppression and colonization by embedding white supremacist ideologies into the structures and curriculum in schools and perpetuating intergenerational trauma. We center the demands of BIPOC-led (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) movements to reimagine, redesign, and reinvest in a radically different education system where BIPOC students are authentically supported; their experiences, culture and history are reflected; and, their needs are prioritized. Read more about our education equity work.
The ACLU has long fought to protect and defend the civil and human rights of people experiencing homelessness. We challenge government and police practices that criminalize unhoused people as well as practices that make it harder to secure and maintain needed housing, employment, and benefits. Economic security is necessary for the full exercise of the civil liberties that the ACLU of Northern California promotes and defends. Poverty and housing insecurity significantly interfere with one’s ability to exercise core civil rights and civil liberties. We know that these issues disproportionately impact Black and other communities of color. Lack of capital should not be a barrier to security, dignity, autonomy, and full participation in the democratic process.
For much of the country’s history, formal and explicit racial restrictions, embedded in law, prevented people of color from accessing the mainstays of economic life, including employment and homeownership. Other programs and policies, such as excessive fines and fees to fund government operations, continue to disproportionately affect all low-income people, particularly Black and other people of color. The ACLU of Northern California seeks to eliminate discrimination based on poverty and other arbitrary classifications. We also seek to proactively support the design of government measures that will allow more Californians to achieve a life of equal dignity, with an ability to participate fully in civic and social life and to exercise the core constitutional rights that we have long defended. The ACLU uses litigation and other advocacy to remedy deeply entrenched sources of inequality and ensure access to economic opportunity.
The ACLU of Northern California acknowledges that all land in what is currently known as the United States, including the areas where the ACLU of Northern California works, is unceded Indigenous territory. This land has been stewarded by Indigenous people since time immemorial. We recognize the urgent need to promote and advance the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples. Through our Indigenous-centered legal, policy, advocacy, and organizing work, we support and advance tribal sovereignty, the rights of Indigenous peoples, and the dismantling of colonial systems of oppression. We strive to follow the lead of Indigenous peoples, communities, organizations, and movements through community-directed political, social, cultural, policy, and educational processes. We endeavor to honor and, when possible, integrate Indigenous worldviews and values into our approaches and strategies.