Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Civil rights, back on the agenda

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I tweeted on this last night, but I thought I'd link here to the NYT story:

Seven months after taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is reshaping the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by pushing it back into some of the most important areas of American political life, including voting rights, housing, employment, bank lending practices and redistricting after the 2010 census.

As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring, where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly.

It's about time. Anyone who thinks that discrimination against minority and other disadvantaged groups is a thing of the past is living in a dreamworld of delusion. And anyone who thinks -- as Bush and his underlings did -- that there's no need to enforce civil rights is essentially sanctioning bigotry.

Conservatives talk up equal rights for all, hence in part their opposition to "special" rights for some, but they don't believe in such fairness anymore than they believe in universal health insurance. Yes, it would be nice if there were no such thing as discrimination, and no need for a Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, but the reality is still quite different than the dream.

And, in opposing the enforcement of civil rights, conservatives are disregarding the plight of countless Americans who are still treated unfairly simply because of the colour of their skin or because of some other disenfranchising characteristic -- and not because they genuinely believe in equality, either in dream or reality, but because of their own partisan, ideological preferences, not to mention their own personal advantages.

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