Civil and Human Rights

RELEASE: Marking Juneteenth: Working to Close the Gaps Between Our Constitution’s Promise and Our Lived Reality

WASHINGTON – CAC President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following statement:

Juneteenth celebrates not the first declaration of emancipation, but the last corner of the nation the proclamation of freedom touched. This year, Juneteenth reminds us that declarations of rights and values aren’t worth much to most people until they actually reach you, where you live, in real time. 

The arc of our Constitution’s progress is a story of the gaps that often exist between legal rights and legal realities. For example, the Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws. It is a promise we struggle every day to redeem. The right to vote is another, protected by more constitutional amendments than any other. Yet still we fight against efforts to make it harder for all of our people to exercise their franchise. Freedom was denied to African Americans at our founding, guaranteed after a bloody Civil War, then denied again for another hundred years—and we continue fighting to free African Americans from state violence to this very day.

We work to fill those gaps between our Constitution’s promise, and our lived reality, by working, for example, to get rid of judge-made doctrines such as qualified immunity, which by immunizing state actor offenders, often renders constitutional protections ornamental. We know wrongs such as these persist, and we work every day to end them once and for all.

It is our responsibility—the more than 300 million of us living under our Constitution as members of this American family—to redouble our efforts to close these gaps. I remain as optimistic as ever before, even in these incredibly difficult times, that we will not rest until every person in our nation is truly free.

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Resources:

“Qualified Immunity: The Only Way to Fix It Is to End It,” Statement of CAC President Elizabeth Wydra, June 10, 2020: https://www.theusconstitution.org/news/release-qualified-immunity-the-only-way-to-fix-it-is-to-end-it/ 

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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