The NAACP Defense Fund, famously led by Thurgood Marshall during the Civil Rights Movement, has new leadership.
NPR spoke with the new leader of the NAACP Defense Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, law professor at the University of Maryland, about what it means to lead ‘black America’s Law Firm’ during the age of Obama.
“There are adult generations that have no memory of the civil rights movement, who are unaware of its sights, its sounds, what it meant, the seminal way in which it shaped how many of us think about America and think about the world,” Ifill says.
Ifill says seeing the black president makes it harder for people to integrate “the picture of a black president and his family and the reality of what life is like for people at the bottom.”
Ifill is bringing attention to how people view Obama as an indication of a post-racial era in America, not understanding that African-Americans in general still experience disparities in all walks of life.
For example, the unemployment rate among African-Americans is double that of white Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to NPR, there are two big cases on Ifill’s agenda:
The first involves a test of the affirmative action system at the University of Texas, where a student who says she was rejected because she’s white has sued to overturn the school’s admissions regime.
The second is a case that calls into question a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section Five of that law gives the Justice Department the power to pre-approve election changes in states with a history of discrimination.
Ifill began her legal career doing voting rights cases in the South at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and is also eyeing challenging voting rights laws enacted by several states.