DOJ Marks 60-Years of Civil Rights Enforcement
In case you missed it, the month of September marked the 60th
anniversary of the Civil Rights Division (CRD) of the U.S. Department
of Justice (DOJ).
The CRD, which opened for business in 1957, has a noble mission and rich history which has helped to effectuate equal opportunity for all Americans — especially African Americans, women and other groups.
“On September 9, 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights
Act of 1957, creating the Civil Rights Division,” according to DOJ.
1957 Act was the first civil rights law passed since Reconstruction,
and was a first step leading to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights
Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act the following year, and numerous
other civil rights laws enacted in the years since that are enforced by
the Civil Rights Division,” the DOJ said in a statement.
Since its creation six decades ago, the CRD has been at the forefront of opening the doors of equal opportunity to all Americans and remedying discrimination from the workplace to virtually every public place.
The DOJ reminds us, for example, that, “Division attorneys prosecuted the defendants accused of murdering three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964, and were involved in the investigations of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers.”
During its first decade, the CRD vigorously
safeguarded the right to vote for all black citizens under the
groundbreaking Voter Rights Act of 1965. Bigots who tried to ban or discourage African Americans from polling
places, or otherwise deny them the right to vote, were met with swift
prosecution by CRD.
In addition to safeguarding voting rights for all Americans, CRD is responsible for prohibiting the following forms of discrimination nationwide:
Hate crimes affecting African Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, the LGBT community and other targeted groups.
Today, we have observed a disturbing wave of racism, "Islamophobia" and
anti-Semitism, coupled with a resurgence of white supremacist hate
groups seeking to divide America. We've also observed hate crimes against people based on their sexual orientation, specifically the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
The CRD recently announced an investigation into the ugly racial incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in one innocent demonstrator being killed and many others injured.
- Human trafficking, including sex trafficking of young girls and so-called “slave labor” working conditions. This is another major problem that appears to be worsening, as bad actors continue to prey upon and exploit the most vulnerable among us. “Victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over,” according to the advocacy group Arc of Hope for Children. “A $32 billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is in all 50 states and 4.5 Million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.”
- Unreasonable or excessive use of force by police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials.
We have all seen recent racial incidents between police and minority
communities that have erupted into violence and mass rioting, from
Ferguson to Baltimore and numerous other cities nationwide.
This stark racial division between white police officers and minority communities requires healing and unity – for which the CRD can play a critically important role.
- Discrimination, harassment and retaliation against employees and students
based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin and other
factors. Unfortunately, discrimination remains a persistent problem from
the workplace to college campuses across the country.
Today, in addition to the blatant bias and bigotry that has always existed, we also see more implicit forms of discrimination which have been labeled as “unconscious” or “unintentional” – but there’s nothing unconscious or unintentional to those who are victimized, regardless of whether the discriminatory acts are perceived as overt or subtle, visible or hidden.
- Discrimination against people with disabilities in housing and public accommodations who are unlawfully denied equal access and services. The U.S. Census Bureau says that 20% of all Americans have a disability impairment or will experience one during their lifetime – physical, mental or both. That’s over 60 million people who don’t deserve to be treated as second class citizens. In essence, even one case of unlawful discrimination is one too many.
- Violations of humane treatment for those who are institutionalized. Americans who are elderly and/or suffer from mental illness are still targeted for discrimination and victimization because they are perceived to be among the most vulnerable groups. The fight to end the stigma against those with mental illness is still being fought in the 21st century – in addition to eliminating myths, fears and stereotypes based on age and disability.
Every American deserves to be treated by society in a humane and respectful manner, regardless of age, disability or anything else.
- Discrimination based on religion in places of worship and other violations against specific religious communities.
We must always remember that America is the land of religious freedom
in which every group is protected by law for expressing their sincerely
held religious beliefs and views, despite the objections of others.
The burning down of black churches, spray painting of synagogues with anti-Semitic slurs, or breaking windows or otherwise desecrating mosques are all reprehensible acts and should never be tolerated. The perpetrators of such egregious crimes must face the full weight of the justice system.
Which of the aforementioned civil rights issues do YOU think deserves the most attention today and why? Please share your valuable comments below.
_______________________________________________________________________________________ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a Washington, DC-based strategic communications consultant, beBee brand ambassador and featured blogger. His 20+ years of work in the public and private sectors include the White House, Congress, federal agencies and national news media. In addition to beBee, you can find David buzzing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium.