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Panelists speak at the 2018 ACLU National Conference at the Washington Convention Center in June 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union will announce Tuesday it's embarking on an aggressive racial justice agenda that includes support for a reparations bill, expanding resources into southern states, and pushing for rural post offices to adopt basic banking services.

Why it matters: The 101-year-old ACLU is shifting its emphasis from defending free speech to forcefully tackling systemic racism amid a racial awakening in the U.S. and could provide a jolt to traditionally underfunded minority-led organizations.

  • The ACLU's national board this month elected civil rights attorney Deborah Archer as its new president, making her the first Black woman to lead the organization.
  • People of color make up around 61% of the ACLU's national board.
  • Anthony D. Romero, a New York-born son of parents from Puerto Rico, is starting his 20th year as ACLU's executive director and has led the gradual change.

The details: The group's "Systemic Equality agenda" includes a demand to pass legislation sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, that would fund a commission to study proposals on reparations for African Americans.

  • The group also wants post offices in rural Black, Native American, and Latino areas with no banks to offer check cashing, money transfers, and bill payments services.
  • The agenda seeks more voting rights protections, increase broadband access, student loan forgiveness, and new housing policies to fight racial segregation.
  • The ACLU is vowing to invest up to $40 million to expand staffing in its Southern affiliates to aggressively fight systemic racism in the former Confederacy.

What they're saying: "We can begin to unlock the potential that is in some of these states, and begin to create the political environment that is much more conducive for racial justice and civil rights and civil liberties. You can change the national map," Romero said on ACLU's planned Southern Collective.

  • Romero said the recent spike in Black voter participation in Georgia was a good example of how election maps can change if more resources are dedicated.

Flashback: The ACLU represented biracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving in the 1967 landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, that ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

  • ACLU founders include Black poet and civil rights advocate James Weldon Johnson.

Between the lines: The ACLU's agenda comes as the reparation movement gains mainstream attention thanks to the New York Times Magazine's 1619 Project, the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Democratic presidential candidates vowing to address systemic racism from slavery to today.

  • National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America co-chair Kamm Howard said it was exciting that ACLU is officially joining the fight for reparation, though in recent years ACLU members have been offering technical support.
  • "We welcome the solitary. We've never lacked the intellectual resources. We've lacked financial resources so is this good for the movement."
  • The ACLU says it doesn't intend to take over the various issues from traditionally minority-led organizations but offer additional resources from its multimillion-dollar nonprofit.

Don't forget: The ACLU sued the Trump administration 413 times over policies from the Muslim ban to the border wall. Archer said the ACLU also will sue the Biden administration to pursue its racial equity agenda if needed.

  • "President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made a lot of promises and commitments around racial justice, challenging systemic racial inequality. And now it's time for the ACLU to be a part of the effort to hold them accountable for those promises."

Go deeper

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

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