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June 1, 2020

National Association of Women Lawyers’
Statement and Call to Action in Response to the Murder of George Floyd

We write to you with heavy hearts as our nation has once again been shocked by the senseless killing of another Black person at the hands of the police. The murder of George Floyd is a reminder of the grim inequities that run rampant in our society. We are not witnessing a tear in the fabric of our democracy, but further evidence that our democracy was never fully fabricated – it has and continues to elude and exclude those who have historically been marginalized based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sex. These inequities are reflected in victims like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black women and men, as well as the disproportionate health and unemployment impacts of COVID-19 on the Black community. This country is at an inflection point from which we can and must collectively move forward in recognition that an injustice against one community is an affront to all of our communities. We must support one another to fight institutional racism and bigotry.

Over 150 years have passed since our civil war and the end of slavery, yet this country has yet to fulfill the hard-won promise of civil liberties and equality under the law. As a nation we must all come together and demand that those charged with enforcing our Constitution and laws be the standard bearers of that promise. Only when every American feels safe and that they have the same rights to live in dignity and equality will that promise be realized.

Heeding the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that it is “not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around,” NAWL renews our commitment to advocate for justice and equality for all. NAWL stands unified with other organizations supporting the principle of equal justice for all and the uniform application of the rule of law regardless of color, gender, race, religious or political affiliation. We call upon our leaders to ensure that states and localities fulfill the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection for all. We call upon our members and the legal profession to join us and employ the knowledge, skills, and values we have as lawyers to implement strategies that will eradicate systemic racial injustice.

Each one of us can make a difference. NAWL urges our members to commit to:

  1. Know and exercise your rights and encourage others to do the same. Research and understand key legislation on issues that affect you and your community. Write or contact your local and national elected officials to ask questions, advocate your beliefs and simply hold them accountable (find your representative here). And most importantly, VOTE!
  2. Engage with the NAWL community to create concrete projects and action steps to further social justice and protect equal rights. NAWL’s diverse membership is dedicated to equality, mutual support, and collective success – we are here to support one another.
  3. Educate yourself by learning about the history and culture of people unlike you and expanding your circle to include people from diverse backgrounds. Acknowledge that implicit biases are part of the human condition but disparately affect Black and other marginalized groups. Actively work toward not allowing them to define how you view and treat people who are unlike you. Please consider 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice and Anti-Racism Reading/Resource List.
  4. Support civil rights and social justice causes. Some examples include:
    • NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the nation's first legal organization fighting racism, founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, our country's first Supreme Court Justice of color, and the chief architect behind the effort to desegregate the south through the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Ed. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 75 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.
    • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), founded in 1920, is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
    • Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar’s leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity – work that continues to be vital today. The Lawyers’ Committee is committed to securing equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. 

Please take care of yourselves and each other.  
- The National Association of Women Lawyers -