At Liberty is a weekly podcast from the ACLU that explores the biggest civil rights and civil liberties issues of the day.
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Blues Musician Takes On White Supremacy One KKK Member at a Time
As the political divide deepens through disinformation campaigns about the election results, vaccines, 9/11, and more, it can feel like unity and consensus are shrinking on the horizon. And yet, the only way to address the pandemic or the fault lines in our democracy is if we can bridge the divide and find an enclave of common ground.
Our guest today has decades of experience finding common ground and, in some cases, persuading people to change their minds about deeply held beliefs. Daryl Davis is a Blues musician by profession, but has devoted a lifetime to reaching out to KKK members and starting a dialogue. Since he began the work, he has persuaded over 200 KKK members to leave the organization.
He joins us to discuss how he manages to persuade people to abandon long-held beliefs and how these tactics might help the national crisis of polarization.
Bans on School Mask Mandates Discriminate Against Disabled Kids
As millions of children head back to school, some states have banned mask mandates on school grounds. As of this recording, school districts in eight states cannot require students to wear a mask in school; if they do, many risk losing crucial state funding.
This ban ignores national recommendations by the CDC to wear a mask indoors for those who are unvaccinated or in an area of high COVID transmission. For children with disabilities or families with high-risk medical conditions, the ban makes in-person learning perilous. Many children are forced back into remote learning even though studies have shown students -- particularly students of color and those with disabilities -- fall behind when they can’t attend school in person.
Excluding these children from in-person learning violates federal law which is why the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project is suing on behalf of groups of parents with vulnerable children in both South Carolina and Iowa. Joining us to talk about the case is Samantha Boevers, one of the parents in the case, and Susan Mizner, the director of the ACLU's Disability Rights Project.
Survivors of the CIA Torture Program Almost 20 Years Later
As we pass the 20-year mark since September 11th, we are following up with the clients and the attorney of one seminal ACLU lawsuit on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, a program that ended in 2010 but that continues to haunt its survivors and to stain the U.S.’s international human rights record.
The lawsuit Salim v Mitchell was filed in 2015 against James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, two psychologists contracted by the CIA to design, implement, and oversee the agency’s post-9/11 torture program. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three of the program’s victims. All three were kidnapped by the CIA, and then tortured and experimented on according to Mitchell and Jessen’s protocols. One of the men died as a result of his treatment. The other two men continue to endure the effects of their detention.
In 2017, the psychologists agreed to a settlement — a first for a case involving CIA torture.
We’ll speak with ACLU Staff Attorney Steven Watt about what the litigation achieved and what still needs to happen to help prevent any future use of torture. We’ll also have a chance to listen in on Steven’s own recent conversations with our three clients as they rebuild their lives and navigate the continued effects of the torture program.
How To End the Preschool to Prison Pipeline
Over the coming weeks, kids will be heading back to school – over a million of them to preschool. And while many of these preschoolers will learn about colors, shapes, and the ABC’s, thousands will learn what it’s like to be suspended for the first time. On average 250 preschoolers are suspended each day of the school year. Compared with K through 12 students, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of older students.
Our guest today has spent decades raising awareness about this trend and its effect on a child’s long-term outcomes. Dr. Rosemarie Allen is an associate professor at the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she teaches students about power, privilege, and the education system. She joins us today to discuss the preschool to prison pipeline, the punitive culture in educational spaces, the mental health care of students, and alternative approaches that teach rather than punish.
Jill Lepore on What It Means to be an American Citizen
In this episode, we are diving into the At Liberty archive and returning to a conversation with historian Jill Lepore.
We are on the brink of a once-in-a-generation change: Congress is considering a plan to create a pathway to citizenship for up to 8 million people. This September, the ACLU is urging Congress to pass a reconciliation package which includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders, farmworkers, and other essential workers. But what does it mean to be an American citizen? And how did we get here, to a place and a time when we deny so many the ability to become an American? These are the questions that Jill Lepore explores in her book, “These Truths” which tells the story of how our nation has evolved from its origins. Jill is a professor of American history at Harvard, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and a prolific thinker and writer on history and contemporary politics. In this conversation, Jill speaks to former At Liberty host Lee Rowland. We hope you enjoy this conversation.
About At Liberty
At Liberty is a weekly podcast from the ACLU that explores the biggest civil rights and civil liberties issues of the day. Join host Lee Rowland, a former ACLU attorney, as she and guests try to make some sense of what’s going on in our country.