Thursday, July 30, 2020

Redeeming the Soul of Our Nation

Image1Congressman John Lewis' funeral was held on July 30th. The Congressman left a powerful letter to the nation to be published by the New York Times. While many eulogized Mr. Lewis at his funeral, Mr. Lewis himself remains the most eloquent about his life and his goals.

Mr. Lewis was an extraordinary man by all measure.  And in his letter he left us instructions for carrying on.  In part, Mr. Lewis' instructs us:  "Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart, and stand up for what you truly believe."  We urge you to read the entire letter.

Though I am gone, I urge you to
answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

Though I am gone, I urge you to
answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

July 30, 2020 in Civil Rights, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth

Editors' Note: Continuing our symposium on Black Lives Matter, we publish this post for Juneteenth

By Co-Editor Prof. Justine Dunlap, UMass Law School

Image1In the 7-10 days before Juneteenth, it has gotten a good deal of attention. For this increased awareness, we have President Trump’s scheduler to thank. That person initially selected this date for Trump’s first height-of-Covid rally in Tulsa, OK.  This choice was particularly problematic because of the Tulsa race massacre that killed many black people in the affluent black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa in 1921.

Much outcry ensued over this scheduled event and now a lot more white people know a lot more about Juneteenth, the real emancipation day for enslaved African-Americans. It occurred on June 19th, 1865, when news of Lincoln’s January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation reached and was read to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Many of us, regardless of race, had been taught that Lincoln’s document did the trick, with an occasional hint that there were some problems with that interpretation of history. Imagine being free but not being informed of that freedom for 2 & ½ years.

Once celebrated officially primarily in Texas, Juneteenth is an official state holiday in 46 states and is celebrated by parades and other festivities befitting a joyous day of independence.  Juneteenth.com contains much information about this critical yet under-celebrated day.  Spend some time today exploring it. It also contains the poem below by Kristina Kay Robinson.

We Rose”

From Africa’s heart, we rose

Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,

We rose

Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose

Survive we must, we did,
We rose

We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose

To become the knowledge we never knew,
We rose

Dream, we did
Act we must

June 18, 2020 in Civil Rights, Justine Dunlap, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

US Commission on Civil Rights Issues Report

This month the US Human Rights Commission issued its report Contemporary Civil Rights Challenges:  A View From The States.   The report results from a survey of the 50 states' local civil rights advisory committees. 

The top civil rights concerns revealed by the survey are race/color, administration of justice and voting rights.  Other concerns are education, criminal justice, freedom of expression and civil rights enforcement.  

Some of the specific concerns raised include voter suppression, Native American rights, the tension between religious liberty and non-discrimination laws, LGBT rights, cost of education and many others.  The report also addresses geographic differences and national trends. 

September 11, 2018 in Civil Rights, Margaret Drew | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Yes, One Government Agency Speaks up for Families at the Border

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission has had some ups and downs over the years.  Appointees are political, but with six-year terms, their appointments extend beyond the next election.  At times, the result has been a stalemated group, unable to speak out effectively on the civil rights challenges facing the nation. 

Today, the basic composition of the Commission hasn't changed -- it's still a bi-partisan group of eight appointees.  But perhaps because of the extreme positions promoted by this administration, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has found its voice and is energetically taking action to hold the line on civil rights.

On June 15, the Commission, acting by majority vote of six commissioners, sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security strongly condemning the Trump Administration's policy of separating children and families at the U.S. border. 

Recent reports have focused on voting rights, inequity in education funding, and workplace discrimination based  on sexual orientation.  Currently, the agency is investigating discrimination in government enforcement decisions.  After a period of neglect, the Commission has re-invigorated its state advisory structure, expanding its local eyes and ears, and reach, across the country.  

As the Human Rights at Home blog, we can't help but wish that the Commission would do more to frame its work through human rights norms, particularly since it is the closest thing that the U.S. has to a national human rights institution.  Without making any commitments on that score, Commission Chair Catherine Lhamon has encouraged NGO submissions to the Commission, such as comments on their proposed reports, that illuminate human rights concerns.  Further, the Commission has acknowledged the human rights implications of the administration's family separation policy; its recent letter specifically noted the UN disapproval of the policy.

In short, within its sphere of domestic human rights, the Commission is stepping up just when Americans most need a voice within the government that reiterates longstanding American values that seem to have been forgotten by other policymakers.     

June 19, 2018 in Civil Rights, Martha F. Davis | Permalink | Comments (0)