Does the U.S. Still Need a Civil Rights Commission?

CRC calls its own existence into doubt

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For 53 years, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has served to investigate and report on civil rights concerns. But as the federally-appointed panel opened its daylong event in DC on Tuesday, some prominent civil rights leaders, as well as members of the commission, have wondered aloud whether the CRC in its current form has outlived its "usefulness" and needs to be retooled for the 21st century. According to The Washington Post, liberal critics also charge that the commission became too "highly politicized" under the Bush administration. Pundits speculate on the commission's future.

  • Some in Commission Not Sure If 'It has Any Useful Purpose At All'  reports Krissah Thompson at The Washington Post. "The biggest complaint from the commission's detractors is that it hasn't done much of anything in recent years." she notes, "Its work consists largely of holding hearings and writing reports, but there have been fewer of those as the commission's direction has become more ambiguous in recent decades, with the emergence of a black middle class and the election of an African American president - along with persistent racial disparities."

  • 'Once-Influential' Panel Has a 'History of Discord'  writes Mary Ann Zehr at Education Week. The eight members of the bipartisan committee have previously clashed on "how best to uphold civil rights" on issues such as affirmative action. At the commission's day-long event on Tuesday Zehr points out that the, "leaders of prominent civil rights groups did not serve on any panels at the full-day event, and the Democratic commissioners failed to show up."
  • Commission Has a 'Dominant' Conservative Viewpoint  observes Tanya Somanader at ThinkProgress, who outlined the course of Tuesday's event: "Five of the conservative-leaning commissioners hosting panels at today's conference. The two Democrats and the sole Republican who criticized the Commission's attention to the manufactured right-wing New Black Panthers 'scandal' are not moderating any panels. And two of the three panelists debating the future of the Commission believe that the Commission is 'a complete waste of resources' that 'should be disbanded.'"
  • Why Can't the Commission Debate the Future Without Someone Questioning Its Existence?  "In the blogosphere, the commission was actually criticized for having a panel debating its own existence, as if it were a sign of lack of confidence or lack of commitment to its mission that it would actually have people come together and talk about whether it should exist," said former staff director of the Civil Rights Commission Kenneth Marcus to Talking Points Memo. "I think every year every agency should have to ask the question -- are we still relevant, are we still required, what should we be doing, should we still have an agency?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.