Supreme Court Decisions Provide a Glimmer of Hope for Racial Justice

June 22, 2020

The current chaos in our lives includes a pandemic that has put over twenty million people out of work and the seemingly unceasing killing of Black people by police. But last week, we saw glimmers of hope for a better future.

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to rescind the DACA program. Three days earlier, the high court found the language of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting sex discrimination) applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Both decisions significantly impact workers of color and suggest that the hard work the racial and social justice movements may be bearing fruit.

The pandemic has spotlighted systemic discrimination in this country, including the workplace. The virus disproportionately impacts Blacks and Latinos, and both groups are heavily represented in essential services jobs. Rescinding DACA would have stripped hundreds of thousands of employed (and recently furloughed or released) “dreamers” of their ability to work or to be rehired after the COVID crisis is over. Many in the LGBTQ community faced job loss not only from COVID-related layoffs but because many states did not have anti-discrimination laws and did not extend Title VII to protect LGBTQ employees.

Last week’s decisions offer a glimmer of hope, hope for the soul of our country. The Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County will help ensure LGTBQ employees are legally protected from discrimination at work. And last Thursday’s DACA ruling in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University Of California constitutes a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration’s consistent attempts to foment anger and hatred toward the Black and Brown immigrant population, all with the ultimate goal of dismantling their lives through deportation, work restrictions, and making benefits unavailable.

Those of us who work toward eliminating racial, sexual preference, and gender identity discrimination in the workplace are re-energized by the events of the past few weeks. The American workplace had become complacent about race discrimination, often choosing to believe that the goal of eradicating race-based inequities had been met.

Now, this fallacy has come to light. The recent Supreme Court decision gives LGBTQ employees nationwide protections that allows them to bring their true selves to work without fearing they will have no legal recourse if their employer discriminates against them.

Only by calling out inequities and demanding – through protest, education, and the legal system – they are corrected can we effectuate real change for those in America’s workforce. We are in challenging times, but the fight against discrimination at work and in our communities saw great wins this week.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)