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Congressional Black Caucus Statement on the Supreme Court Oral Arguments for Comcast Corp. V. National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAOM)

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in Comcast Corp. V. National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAOM), a Trump-backed lawsuit that threatens to roll back the clock on civil rights protections in contracting.

 

“In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump tried to appeal to the Black community by simply asking, “What do you have to lose?” Three years later, the answer is crystal clear: among many other advancements achieved by those who came before us, protections under one of the oldest civil rights laws on the books.

 

Just one year after the end of the Civil War, Congress enacted a law to help ensure that newly freed slaves were put on the same footing as their white counterparts. Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits both government and private entities alike from discriminating on the basis of race in banking and consume business transactions, or in the formation or performance of contracts. Ultimately, this reconstruction-era legislation supports the economic empowerment of Black entrepreneurs and businesses by providing equal access to a free market built on the backs of unpaid slave labor.

 

Now, more than a century later, the Supreme Court is considering a case that could make it nearly impossible for Black people facing discrimination to have their day in court. Comcast Corporation, backed by Trump’s Department of Justice, is arguing that plaintiffs claiming discrimination under Section 1981 must prove at the outset of the case that they would have received a contract but for racial prejudice. This means defendants could quash a case at the outset by claiming any reason other than race for a contract decision, even if racial discrimination was afoot. This also strips plaintiffs of the benefits of discovery when defendants are usually in control of the information that would prove discrimination.

 

The Congressional Black Caucus is shocked that the Comcast Corporation, a multinational conglomerate, would take steps to completely gut a civil rights law to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that in the face of a persistent racial wealth gap and rising tides of discrimination and bigotry across the country, the Trump administration wants to strip civil rights for Black Americans seeking economic opportunity. We have already lost too much under this administration and the Congressional Black Caucus stands ready and willing to protect one of our nation’s oldest civil rights laws.

 

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 The Congressional Black Caucus was established in 1971 and has a historic 55 members for the 116th Congress, including two senators. Together, the Caucus represents more than 82 million Americans. Congressmember Karen Bass (D-CA) is the chair of the caucus.

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