Recent events within our state and across our nation have brought to the forefront long-standing historic grievances regarding abhorrent racial inequities within our justice system. During this critical moment in our nation’s history, the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers (GAWL) has both an ethical and moral responsibility to be a voice to help combat systemic racism and oppression of minorities. As lawyers, we recognize that we cannot be complicit and we must play a restorative role in helping to dismantle institutional barriers that undermine equality and justice under the law.
The time for change is now. GAWL stands in solidarity with those who seek justice promised to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution. We join the calls being made for meaningful reforms to discriminatory practices and violence against black people in our country.The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks are only the most recent tragedies in a long history of racism, injustice, and violence. However, these recent events must not define who we are as a people. We have the power to shape our society for the better.
On the heels of protests and demonstrations related to these and other recent events, last week our legislature passed a new hate crime bill, House Bill 426, which would allow enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. HB 426, which Governor Kemp signed into law Friday, becomes effective July 1. This legislation signifies a recognition of the existence of violence against blacks and others on the basis of race and other immutable characteristics and the need to deter such violence through stiffer penalties. We have a long way to go on the road to eradicating racism, injustice, and violence on the basis of race, but this is a substantial step in the right direction.
GAWL’s mission is to “enhance the welfare and development of women lawyers and their interests” and promoting and affecting diversity, equality, and justice under the law and within the legal system are essential to this mission. As lawyers, we are uniquely equipped to recognize and fight against the systemic injustices that have impacted disproportionately the lives of black and brown people for centuries. There are many steps we can take to eradicate racial injustice, such as identifying and addressing racial biases, providing financial support, volunteering with organizations focused on equality and justice for communities of color, and self-education. GAWL maintains a strong commitment to creating a forum where productive conversations regarding race and equality occur and are catalysts for progress. We encourage you to use your unique positions of power, privilege, and education to affect meaningful changes in the legal system, judiciary, legislature, and the community at large.
We have provided a list of resources below. They are not affiliated with GAWL and are being shared for informational purposes only. We are continuing to take the time to reflect on how we can further support black and other minority members of GAWL, the legal profession, and beyond. Let us continue to be an ally for change as we remember that “[i]njustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In love and solidarity,
Veronica Cope, President
Georgia Association for Women Lawyers
A list of resources to help you now and moving forward:
- ACLU Georgia: Become a Legal Observer or Donate
- National Bail Fund:Donate to a bail fund in your city or state
- Become a Poll Worker: Several Counties across the State of Georgia need volunteers as we approach elections in the Fall
- Georgia Election Protection Coalition: The nation's largest non-partisan voter protection coalition
- Election Protection: Works year-round to advance and defend the right to vote
- Atlanta Justice Lawyers: This is a pro bono, non-partisan, and unaffiliated volunteer collective of Georgia attorneys. Facebook Page
- Equal Justice Initiative: Provides legal representation to people who have been wrongly convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in state jails and prisons
- Black Lives Matter: Donate and Toolkits and Reports
- Self-Education: TIME has curated lists on books to readand movies to watchto teach yourself about racism and protest history