A Plea for an End to Social Injustice and Systemic Racism
By Carlos Costa-Rodrigues, CVALA President
- Updated 5/1/2021
Martin Luther King Jr., wrote in an open letter from a Birmingham Jail, “[I]injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” As Cape Verdean American lawyers, we inhabit multiple communities: immigrants and descendants of immigrants; Black Americans as well as members of the African diaspora; Black people, people of color, and those for whom their European ancestry has at times enabled them to avoid the worst of systemic racism in America due to the pervasive nature of colorism and implicit bias. As an organization cognizant of our varied life experiences, we wish to be very clear about the knowledge we hold in common: we are painfully familiar with social injustice in our communities, particularly in the criminal justice system due to prejudice and systemic racism against Black people and in immigration due to bigotry and deep xenophobia against immigrants from African and other Global South nations.
We vehemently oppose prejudice and racism in all aspects of human interactions, including policing, immigration, employment, academia, education, housing and healthcare.
The repugnant and senseless killing of George Floyd and countless deaths of other Black individuals at the hands of police officers are just the latest inevitable and repulsive casualty of institutionalized racism at the birth of this nation and entrenched afterwards for centuries. And unlike numerous incidents of police brutality and hatred by white supremacists that have occurred routinely without ever meeting the public eye, the heinous strangulation of Floyd and the appalling shooting of Ahmaud Arbery were exposed to millions, if not billions, of people. As a result, the ensuing civil unrest that erupted throughout the world, but particularly in many large cities across the United States, has placed a much-needed spotlight on the challenges that Black people in the United States face every day. This focus on Black suffering and deaths, in turn, has driven social injustice to the forefront of conversations about racial inequities and has prompted institutions and governments to consider policies and laws that would counter racism.
We envision a society where people from all walks of life, but particularly lawyers, would work collaboratively in advocating for and in protecting the civil, legal and political rights of minority communities. Thus, we stand in solidarity with the peaceful protesters calling for the end of racial injustice, structural racism, and inequities in all marginalized communities. All people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or any other aspect of their identity, should be treated equal. Bigotry, prejudice and racism must have no place in any society.
As President Biden emphasized in his remarks in response to the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, “[w]e must not turn away. We can’t turn away [with the conviction]. We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.” The CVALA will continue relentlessly to speak up against racism, in all forms and wherever practiced, and stand with those fighting social injustice until such evils are completely eradicated from the face of the earth. Thus, we appeal to every American to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a civil rights and police reform legislation that aims to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. The legislation has been passed by the United States House of Representatives twice and is currently being debated in the Senate.
About the CVALA and Carlos Costa-Rodrigues: The Cape Verdean American Lawyers Association is a nonprofit corporation organized exclusively for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. The CVALA’s core mission is to promote professional development and advancement of law students and lawyers of Cape Verdean descent and to raise awareness of legal issues that have an impact on the Cape Verdean community. The CVALA's president, Carlos Costa-Rodrigues is a former prosecutor and current federal attorney.