Lecture – The Fierce Urgency of Now – Fighting for Civil Rights in 2020

Available with English captions.

Catherine E. Lhamon, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – Visiting Scholar Series

Lhamon provides an overview of the work of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and shares findings and recommendations from the commission’s report on school discipline “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities.”

Presentation highlights include:

  • Discussion of the disparity in school suspensions for students with disabilities versus students without disabilities
  • Review of data related to rates of school expulsion without educational services for black, multiracial, Native American/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander American students
  • Explanation of the importance of providing sufficient Congressional funding to ensure that all schools have adequate counselors and social workers

The commission, said Lhamon, acts as “the nation’s eyes and ears on civil rights” and makes “recommendations for what federal civil rights policy should be.” The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created this independent, bipartisan federal agency.

According to Lhamon, when it comes to civil rights, we “have distance yet to travel to achieve the ideals that Dr. Martin Luther King promised.” She added that the fight for civil rights is an enduring struggle that now requires particular vigilance in today’s social climate.

The commission has released recent reports on the prevalence of hate crimes in the U.S., collateral consequences of incarceration, separation of children and families at the border, immigration detention center conditions, and discipline of students of color with disabilities. “What we have documented in these reports distills to this: the impulse to discriminate remains strong in this country.”

The good news, said Lhamon, is that “we are on an upward trajectory, moving away from exclusionary, harsh school discipline,” and focusing more on helping students who act out. While celebrating this success, she urged others to be proactive in promoting civil rights.

“I hope the strongest take-home from our conversation today will be the reminder that each of us has capacity, and, I think, moral imperative to take steps within our power to improve justice in our communities. I see the work done here at McLean Hospital as a key component of that work, and I appreciate you for it.”

Read more about Lhamon’s visit to McLean.