In the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin in late August, we are confronted once again with the harsh legacies of enslavement and Jim Crow. Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha Police Department officer within feet of his young children, and is now paralyzed. Kyle Rittenhouse—who killed two people protesting the police action against Blake and injured a third—walked right past Kenosha police with an automatic rifle strapped to his chest and was not even questioned.
We condemn a criminal justice system that continues to react to Black men with extreme violence, and simultaneously presumes the innocence of a white shooter who murders two people in close proximity to police officers. Our country’s history of institutionalized racism includes a time when the Constitution enshrined the idea that each of our Black brothers and sisters counted as just “three-fifths” of a person, and a time when the Supreme Court held that a Black man had no rights that any white person was bound to observe.
It is simply criminal that a police officer so devalued Jacob Blake’s life that he could shoot him multiple times at point blank range. And it is a sign of how much racial justice work remains to be done that Blake’s father felt the need to remind the assembled news media that his son is “a human being, and he matters.” Those words are particularly poignant because Jacob Blake is the grandson of the late Rev. Jacob S. Blake, a leader in the movement for integrating housing and school in the 1960s and 1970s in Evanston, Illinois, an hour south of Kenosha. And we know his work is far from done. Decades later, our communities and institutions are still segregated, and we clearly still face the consequences. It is this extreme separation that breeds fear of the unknown and forces a reliance on dangerous and antiquated stereotypes.
Despite seeing this sequence of events play out over and over, we are outraged by this latest iteration. In our daily work at Relman Colfax, we regularly encounter cases arising out of structural racism and the abhorrent belief that Black men, women and children are somehow “less than”: less than people, less than white people. We see this pernicious assumption at work in predatory lending schemes that force people of color into homes that are not close to livable; in discriminatory maintenance of foreclosed homes that causes blight in neighborhoods of color; in the discriminatory enforcement pattern adopted by Myrtle Beach during Black Bike Week; and in the racially-motivated denial of municipal water service to the Coal Run neighborhood outside Zanesville, Ohio.
As a firm, we stand with all allies in the battle for racial justice and seek to do everything in our power to join, support, and amplify the message ringing from Kenosha, Wisconsin and every other corner of this land. Since its inception, our firm has challenged discriminatory practices in courts across the country. At this pivotal moment in the struggle, we commit to:
- Pursue civil matters challenging discriminatory police procedures and actions.
- Support judicial, legislative, and executive actions designed to eliminate discriminatory law enforcement practices.
- Support our employees in their personal efforts to further racial justice.
- Match employee donations to racial justice groups and organizations.
- Continue to examine and refine our internal practices to ensure that we are meeting and advancing the values of diversity, equity, antiracism, and inclusion for our entire team.
- Continue our ongoing and future challenges to long-term and structural inequities, particularly in matters involving housing, lending, employment, education, public accommodations, and policing.
As a community of changemakers striving to cultivate a more just, inclusive, equitable, and intentional society we will continue to fight until Black people in America are valued as highly as everyone else in our nation.
Relman Colfax PLLC
Abigail Moats, Alexa Milton, Alicia Menendez-Brennan, Allison Verrilli, Amalia Perez, Andrea Lowe, Angela Groves, Brianna Terrell, Bryan Benavides, Callan Showers, Charlotte Saltzman, Dana Melnik, Eric Sublett, Gabriel Diaz, Glenn Schlactus, Gloria Franklin, Isabel Tessier, Isabelle Charo, Jenn Klar, Jia Cobb, Joëlle Simeu, John Relman, Kali Schellenberg, Lila Miller, Megan Cacace, Michael Allen, Monica Jimenez, Olivia Fritz, Perry Abdulkadir, Rebecca Livengood, Reed Canaan, Reed Colfax, Sara Pratt, Sasha Samberg-Champion, Sonali Durham, Steve Hayes, Tahir Duckett, Tanya Sehgal, Tara Ramchandani, Travis Beck, Yiyang Wu, Zach Best