Soon after his confirmation, Attorney General Eric Holder labeled us a nation of cowards, a people supposedly unwilling or afraid to discuss race. Based on my experience as an attorney at the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, Holder has far more to fear from that discussion than do the rest of us.
If we had that frank, truthful discussion about race, we’d learn that the Obama administration doesn’t believe some civil rights laws protect every American. The Bush Civil Rights Division was willing to protect all Americans from racial discrimination; during the Obama years, the Holder years, only some Americans will be protected. Americans have a right to know and judge the racial policies of the administration they elected in 2008.
The dismissal of the voter intimidation lawsuit against armed New Black Panthers in Philadelphia is the most prominent example of this hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws. But that dismissal is far from the only manifestation of the beliefs infesting the Department. Many other cases and decisions — some of which I will detail below — are in question and deserve scrutiny.
On Election Day 2008, armed men wearing the uniforms and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were posted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the entrance to a polling site. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters. After the election, the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice brought a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and these armed thugs. I, and other Justice lawyers, obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the case against them.
Before a final judgment could be entered, however, our superiors ordered dismissal of the claims.
Congress has sought answers from the Department about why the Black Panther case was dismissed. The Department has repeatedly claimed the “facts and law” did not support the case — which of course is false. Others have speculated about a White House involvement. But I believe the best explanation for the corrupt dismissal of the case is the profound hostility by the Obama Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department towards a race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws.
This hostility was — and is — on open display within the Department of Justice.
Example after example exists where this dirty little secret manifested itself within the Department and affected Department policy.
Attorney General Holder and his political appointees have traveled the country claiming that they have “reopened” the Civil Rights Division. The Civil Rights Division is “back in business,” they announce, without a sniff of media scrutiny. In time, statistics and other information will present truth to this lie, as the Bush Civil Rights Division had a more robust civil rights agenda than the Obama Civil Rights Division. During the Bush years, the Civil Rights Division brought more cases in many areas of the law, particularly voting rights.
Race-neutral enforcement of civil rights law is a principle nearly all Americans agree with. Equality before the law has been cherished since the founding, and a bloody Civil War sacrificed generations of treasure and life to enshrine race equality into constitutional law.
Two obvious examples of the Obama administration’s hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of the civil rights laws:
The Department recently filed a brief supporting the use of race-based preferences at the University of Texas. Holder’s DOJ wants Texas to be able to give extra admissions credit to the skin color of certain college applicants. Of course some races won’t get the benefit of these racial preferences, while the political allies of the administration will.
In New Haven, Connecticut, the Holder Justice Department took the side of those who wanted to racially discriminate against white and Hispanic firefighters seeking promotion. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court rejected the position of the Civil Rights Division. (It is no accident, incidentally, that senior Department attorney Steven Rosenbaum was involved in the formation of the Department’s racially biased approach in New Haven, just as he was involved in the dismissal of the New Black Panther case when he was acting deputy assistant attorney general, a political position in the Civil Rights Division.)
It wasn’t always this way.
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