Black Attorneys Sue ACLU Over ‘Racist Policies and Procedures’


A Black attorney in California is suing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for discrimination, blasting their policies as “flagrantly racist.”

Sarah Clifton, a former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, claims that she was subjected to retaliation and discrimination for her complaints about systemic racism in the workplace.

Clifton was hired in September 2018 to work under supervising attorney Jessica Farris, the organization’s director of criminal justice and drug policy. Clifton alleges that the discrimination was immediate and that Farris exhibited an “obvious irrational fear of Clifton.” She then asked that Clifton downplay the situation by being overly polite and “less Black.”

“[Clifton] purportedly was fired for being nothing more than an ‘angry black woman’ — a tired old racist stereotype that even mainstream publications have since caught on and written about,” the lawsuit states.

Clifton is the daughter of Justice Rogeriee Thompson, who was born in a segregated South Carolina and was furnished to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit by former President Barack Obama in 2010. Her father is William O. Clifton, who served as an associate director on the Rhode Island District Court for nearly 14 years. He passed away in 2018.

She was eventually fired in February and offered a severance package that ordered arbitration to handle disputes.

A spokesperson for the ACLU told CBS News that they have been informed of the suit but “do not comment on personnel matters.”

The ACLU was founded in 1920 and works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The organization has aligned itself with the Black Lives Matter movement over recent months.

And while Clifton fights against her alleged wrongful termination, she is not the only Black employee who claims they were fired after speaking out against its discriminatory practices.

Robert Jackson, a former associate director for the ACLU, says he was demoted after raising concerns about the organization’s internal racism.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the New York District Court. Jackson claims that he and his Black colleagues were told to “keep quiet” about their objections concerning the institution’s diverse leadership deficit. He was eventually fired.

“Despite the good the ACLU has done for the Black community outside of its walls, it appears that the scope of its stated mission starts and ends there,” Jackson’s lawsuit reads. “As was made clear to Mr. Jackson, complaints about systemic racism within the ACLU itself are not welcome, nor are the people who speak out.”

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