Racial justice depends on having an ethical, open and accountable government. But when our government doesn’t uphold these principles, historically marginalized communities often bear the brunt of the impact. We saw this vividly during the Trump administration, but it wasn’t a new development. Fighting for an ethical, accountable government has always been key to advancing racial justice and racial equity.
In 2020 and 2021, we saw how law enforcement responded differently to racial justice protests than the January 6th insurrection. An analysis of internal government documents by CREW lays it bare: “all hands on deck” for racial justice, “no credible threats” from alt-right groups on January 6th. Racial justice protesters in the summer of 2020 were subject to increased surveillance, arrests and serious shows of force by police, while law enforcement repeatedly failed to respond to credible threats and intelligence ahead of the insurrection—with devastating results.
During the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security was ripping apart Black and Brown families at the border, and at the same time illegally failing to create the records needed to reunite them. ICE has a history of failing to create—or even destroying—records that could enable detained immigrants to hold the government accountable for mistreatment and abuses. Recordkeeping laws are crucial to protecting civil rights, and breaking them has made serious abuses even worse.
Dark money isn’t just bad for our democracy on principle—it also actively contributes to voter suppression and gerrymandering, which disproportionately harm minority communities. Leonard Leo’s dark money network includes the so-called Honest Elections Project, which received tens of millions of dollars from dark money vehicle DonorsTrust. HEP has advanced the “independent state legislature theory” that the Supreme Court will soon rule on, a decision that could totally upend elections by allowing state legislatures to run federal elections with essentially no oversight. It’s obvious that many states would likely use that power to attack voting rights, which typically hits young, Black, Brown and low-income voters hardest.
These examples just scratch the surface of how an ethical, accountable government is essential to ensuring racial justice. When we talk about fighting for transparency, countering corruption and strengthening ethics laws, we’re not just fighting to uphold abstract principles. These ideals make a real difference in people’s lives and in achieving racial justice. Ethics matter and they are key to building an equitable, transparent and responsive government.