The horrifying murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others have wrenched hearts across our nation and caused enormous pain, suffering, and trauma. A disproportionate amount of that pain has been inflicted on communities of color—communities that had already borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic by virtue of both a health-care system that for decades provided them with disproportionately inferior levels of care and economic structures that resulted in their experiencing disproportionately higher levels of unemployment and disenfranchisement. Whether you have watched the news, followed social-media accounts, spoken to friends or family, or experienced it first-hand, you have witnessed how these recent acts of violence have shined a stark, bright light on the systemic and structural racism that plagues our city, our state, and our country.
My Legal Aid Chicago colleagues are mission-driven advocates who have dedicated their professional careers to serving these same communities and are all too familiar with these systemic imbalances that our clients face—not periodically or occasionally, but instead relentlessly—every single day. Our clients are consistently excluded, short-changed, and shut out. They simply do not have access to the opportunities and systems that have afforded so many others a chance to live what we consider the American Dream.
As advocates for the powerless, disenfranchised, and oppressed, my Legal Aid Chicago colleagues witness first-hand how these pervasive inequities have resulted in an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. But we also have witnessed that by ensuring the justice system is truly equal, free civil legal aid can itself be a tool to fight racism in its many forms. We at Legal Aid Chicago again join with legal-aid, social-justice, and many other organizations across this country to speak out against racial injustice, including racially-biased policing and discrimination of all forms. We commit in the coming days, weeks, and months to join these organizations and our community partners in helping restore damaged neighborhoods, replenish depleted resources, and rebuild battered lives.
As it has for over fifty years, Legal Aid Chicago again stands next to our clients and in solidarity with the communities that we serve. And we will continue to be part of the collective effort to eradicate the structural and systemic racism that plagues our society.
In solidarity, and on behalf of my colleagues,
John N. Gallo
CEO and Executive Director
Legal Aid Chicago