By Charlotte Young
Founded fifty-four years ago, The US Civil Rights Commission pledged to investigate the complaints of citizens denied their rights due to discrimination, and the commission vows that in this new era, their mission to define civil rights still persists. But does the commission still have the clout and ability to create change for America’s victims of discrimination? Not with what critics are calling an “unworkable structure.”
Despite having three newly elected Democratic members chosen by President Obama—Marty Marty Castro, a former chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission; Roberta Atchenberg, an influential gay rights activist and Dina Titus, an advocate for people with disabilities—critics are still calling the commission ineffective.
This is partly due to the fact that the commission is still largely comprised of leaders that were chosen by former President George Bush or Republican congressional leaders; so of course, the commission conformed to the conservative ideas and positions of the Bush administration. Under such leadership, the commission turned a blind eye towards victims of discrimination, resulting in the neglect of black residents in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, according to America’s Wire. Currently, Republicans comprise a majority on the commission with a ratio of 4-3.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights praises Obama for the new appointees, but is also calling for a “legislative makeover.” This makeover would require a Senate conference of appointees and create an odd-numbered commission to prevent deadlock between the rival political parties. The leadership Conference also suggests a further inclusion of gay rights, as well as domestic obligations that fall under international human rights treaties.
Without a change to its internal structure and objectives, the commission founded to advocate for the fair treatment of all American citizens seems to be good for nothing.