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Dora Mbuwayesango: Campaign fights for rights enshrined in US Constitution

Columnist

Dr. Dora Mbuwayesango

Principle No. 4: We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.

The last clause in section No. 1 of the 14 Amendment of the Constitution states: “nor [shall any state] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This equal protection clause prevents government discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation. It guarantees that no person or group will be denied the protection under law that is granted to other persons and groups.

But many in the United States of America, especially the poor, experience the opposite of equal protection:

• 95 percent of the growth in the incarcerated population since 2000 is the result of an increase in the number of unconvicted defendants, many of whom are unable to make bail.

• People of color are twice as likely to be stopped by police and, once stopped, twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of people of color are less likely to find contraband than searches of white people.

• Poor communities, especially poor communities of color, are being locked up, imprisoned and killed by law enforcement.

• While LGBTQ people experience discrimination in general, LGBTQ people of color are at least twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience discrimination when interacting with law enforcement.

As one of the songs in the Poor People’s Campaign says: “Somebody is hurting my brother, sister or neighbor and I can’t be silent anymore.”  That “somebody” is the very entities that our constitution has invested with the mandate to protect all within the jurisdiction of the U.S.

Silence is not an option when one of us is suffering under unjust policies and laws. Equal protection under the law is non-negotiable; and it is immoral for people, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and resident status, to live in fear.

It’s our duty to advocate with and for those vulnerable to unjust laws and policies designed to exploit and oppress the poor and vulnerable members of our society. For ways to participate visit poorpeoplescampaign.org

Mbuwayesango is a member of the Poor People’s Campaign’s Salisbury Circle.

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