Elizabeth Hill, press secretary for the Department of Education, told ProPublica that the new “enforcement instructions seek to clear out the backlog while giving every complaint the individualized and thorough consideration it deserves.” Lifting the requirement of collecting three years of data will allow complaints to be addressed “much more efficiently and quickly,” she said in an emailed statement. For many years, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments and ensuring access for the disabled. Under Sessions, however, the Justice Department is turning away from one of its most effective weapons against discrimination, “consent decrees” and its Civil Rights Division has issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees that result in no ongoing court oversight. This action is just one part of a plan by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other Federal departments have also scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses. In a previously unreported development, the Education Department recently reversed an Obama-era reform that broadened the agency’s approach to protecting rights of students. The Labor Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have also announced major cuts to their enforcement actions.
“At best, this administration believes that civil rights enforcement is superfluous and can be easily cut. At worst, it really is part of a systematic agenda to roll back civil rights,” said Vanita Gupta, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama.
The Trump administration is also preparing to weaken legal deals struck by the Justice Department under President Obama forcing local police to prevent excessive force or racial bias, Sessions said during his confirmation hearings. He also said that he would not rule out the “withdrawal or modification” of consent decrees secured by the Justice Department from police departments such as Ferguson and Missouri, which he said tend to “undermine respect for our police officers”.
Sessions, a so-called “law-and-order conservative,” has consistently attacked what he sees as the overreach of federal authorities into local policing. While allowing that some consent decrees were legitimate, Sessions said that it was a “difficult thing” for a city to be taken to court by the federal government.
“I think there’s concern that good police officers and good departments can be sued by the Department of Justice when you just have individuals within a department who have done wrong,” said Sessions. “It can impact morale, it can impact and affect the view of citizens to that police department.”
Although it is unlikely that affirmative action will be completely eliminated, too many schools are committed to maintaining a diverse student body. College administrators will find one way or another to achieve balance in their admissions. However, if the current trends continue, women and minorities will need to seek out new sources of college financial aid and develop new strategies for gaining entrance to the nation’s top universities.
The lack of respect for the Office of the President and Attorney General under the Obama Administration was unprecedented. Congressional Republicans wanted to impeach Obama apparently for the crime of being President while Black. For almost eight years, “all manner of conservatives including libertarians, Republicans, and teabaggers were obsessed with one topic and they spent every waking minute preoccupied with how to turn back time and pretend Barack Obama was never elected as President of the United States,” according to a Huffington Post article published in August 2013.
Before and after his election and re-election to the presidency, Barack Obama had been vilified as subhuman in graphics, email transmissions and posters used to undermine him. He has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist, a non-American citizen, and a chimp. The image of his altered face was shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. The depictions of Obama as ape-like sparked the most controversy, considering that blacks have been portrayed as monkey-like for centuries to suggest that they’re inferior to other groups. When Marilyn Davenport, an elected official in the Republican Party of Orange County, Calif., distributed an email depicting Obama and his parents as chimps, she initially defended the image as political satire. Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, had a different take. He pointed out to National Public Radio that the image wasn’t a cartoon but photo shopped.
“And it was crude and it was racist,” he said. “And cartoonists are always sensitive. We want to make people think—we even want to tick people off occasionally, but we don’t want our symbolism to overwhelm our message. …I would never show Obama or an African American as a monkey. That’s just racist. And we know the history of that.”
We now live in a Trump American where hate, bigotry and vitriol against people of color has become the norm. The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017 at a white nationalist have become a new touchstone in the nation’s long-running debate over racism, free speech and violence. One woman was killed and many more injured when a car driven by a rally participant, sped into a crowd of anti-racism protesters. The event quickly took on enormous political importance as an overwhelming majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, condemned the violence and the white supremacist views embraced at the rally. Trump, of course, said that both side were responsible for the bloodshed and would not criticize the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy groups since they are part of his group of supporters. Klan leader David Duke even tweeted his thanks to Trump about his support for those hate groups.
As civil rights activist Pauli Murray once cautioned, “Racism is like a deadly snake coiled and ready to strike, and one only avoids its dangers by never-ending watchfulness.”