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Thursday, Dec 9, 2004, 7:44 am

Conservatives take control of civil rights commission

By Tracy Van Slyke
In an under the radar shift, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is shifting from liberal/Democratic control (5-3) to strong conservative control (6-2).

The independent commission has consistently gone after the Bush administration on issues ranging from suppression of black votes in 2000 to trying to eradicate affirmative action.

The commission's Web site is rife with charges against Bush's leadership for ignorning opportunities or dismantaling key advances in civil rights policies and procedures.

Take the latest commission press release for example:
Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry and Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso underscored their plea for "presidential leadership" by dispatching to the White House a copy of a report prepared by Civil Rights Commission staff titled Redefining Rights in America: The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004. The 166-page report, considered for adoption in November, was rejected by the Republican-appointed members of the 8-member Commission. The report documented what it called "missed opportunities to win consensus on key civil rights issues" ranging from affirmative action, to fair housing, to immigration, to voting rights.
"The credibility and soundness of this review is grounded in careful research that concluded you have failed to exhibit leadership on pressing civil rights issues," stated the letter from Berry and Reynoso accompanying the report. "Sadly, the spiraling demise of hope for social justice and healing has deepened over the past four years, largely due to a departure from and marginalization of long established civil rights priorities, practices and laws."

Many conservatives now in charge of the commission don't even believe it is useful (as if the fight for equal rights and opportunites isn't relevant in this day and age.) This is an important time to monitor what happens with this commission...

Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.

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