FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Revive U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

This country has made remarkable progress on civil rights over our history. We’ve moved from slavery to segregation to equal rights under the law. African-Americans have gained the right to vote, the right to equal employment opportunity. Open racism has become increasingly unacceptable. Gays and lesbians have progressed toward equal rights. Same-sex marriage is increasingly accepted in law and in practice.

Yet in the past years we’ve been presented with inescapable evidence of continuing systemic discrimination. Ferguson and many other abuses sparked the Black Lives Matter movement that exposed the systemic and too often deadly bias of our criminal justice system.

Liberals and conservatives alike have criticized mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders, disproportionately people of color.

The wealth gap between the races has increased dramatically, as African-Americans and Latinos were disproportionately targeted and victimized by the systemic fraud that led to the financial collapse.

Muslim communities have come under brutal assault from political candidates looking to scare up votes. As we’ve already seen in Arizona and Wisconsin, voting rights have come under the worst attack since the days of Jim Crow.

Governors across the country have refused to expand Medicaid, passing up on billions in federal money, with people of color disproportionately the victims.

We need to revive a powerful, independent Civil Rights Commission to act as an independent watchdog, not partisan, to report on these and other fundamental civil rights concerns and make recommendations to the Congress and the president.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission was created in 1957 under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower to provide a powerful, independent monitor of civil rights. Ike’s committee that recommended its formation concluded: “In a democratic society, the systematic, critical review of social needs and public policy is a fundamental necessity. This is especially true of a field like civil rights, where the problems are enduring and range widely (and where) … a temporary, sporadic approach can never finally solve these problems.”

The Civil Rights Commission’s early reports on voting rights and school integration had powerful effect. It played a major role in helping to define what became the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. In 2000, it released a powerful report on police practices and civil rights in America.

The commission still exists but it has been weakened dramatically. Under Ronald Reagan, its budget was cut. Under George W. Bush, it became a partisan battleground, with conservatives seeking to turn it into a vehicle against affirmative action. It was stunningly absent from the debate on reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.

Now it is a shell of its former self. Its recent reports — on police relations, school bullying and immigration detention — have received little attention. Its staff has been cut by more than half from its 1996 level. Its authorization has expired; it exists on annual appropriations that have slowly starved it of funds.

Progress on civil rights has always been contested. But leaders of both parties even in the 1950s and 1960s realized that a powerful, respected, objective monitor on civil rights could make a significant contribution in helping the country’s leaders and its people understand the challenges we faced and recommend reforms to address them.

Now we are deprived of that powerful voice. Everything seems reduced to partisan argument. Even where there is consensus, there is no authoritative, independent voice able to challenge both Congress and the president when needed. America is a remarkably diverse nation. Diversity can be our strength. Handled badly, it can rip nations apart, as we’ve seen in the impoverished, isolated and resentful immigrant communities in France and Belgium. It is time to revive an authoritative Civil Rights Commission.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail