Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Holder and Civil Rights Division

Sep 04, 2009

It was 1957 and the nation was in the midst of the largest sweeping cultural change since the abolishment of slavery. Integration was taking root in every facet of life, Blacks were beginning to see a sliver of opportunity that had been afforded their White counterparts and Washington was busy implementing laws that would create cohesive regulations for everyone to abide by. One of these drastic, groundbreaking maneuvers was the establishment of a unit that would oversee incidents of biased practices, violations of individual’s and group’s civil liberties and the enforcement of anti-discriminatory laws. It was a bold and necessary endeavor known as the Civil Rights Division, and today I can proudly say that it is returning to its original foundation.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced his commitment and continued dedication to revamping the United State’s Civil Rights Division in an effort to return its focus towards ending bigoted practices against minorities. Targeting traditionally unequal areas such as housing, hiring and more, the division will once again work to protect people of color and women from redlining, mortgage scams, unfair firings, lack of employer diversity, improper promotions, disproportionate pay raises and other blatant inequities.

As a civil rights advocate and one who has dedicated his life to ensuring the advancement of all, I welcome this highly needed shift in policy. After eight years of scandal, political interests before public interests and an overall regression of civil liberties, the Obama administration is once again delivering on its promise of change. Hiring at least 50 additional lawyers, and adding about $22 million for next year’s budget, the administration is working diligently to level the playing field, and create a society based on justice and equanimity.

Although there has been tremendous progress made in the advancement of people of color and women, unfortunately incidents arise daily around the country that require our government’s attention. It is refreshing and comforting to know that we have a President that not only recognizes the need for restoring a historic institution like the Civil Rights Division to its roots, but also one that puts forth the necessary changes to move us away from some of the negatives implored on the unit.

During the Bush administration, our esteemed Civil Rights Division moved away from its main function of ending racially discriminatory practices. Instead, it signed off on and created laws that were in many cases the polar opposite of the division’s intended purpose. And though we finally have a Black President and our nation is as diverse as it has ever been, we cannot be fooled into thinking that racism and biased incidents don’t occur anymore. At a time when racially motivated attacks against Blacks and Latinos are on the rise around the country, and anger is fueling from every corner over a plethora of reasons, we should not and will not turn a blind eye towards blatant racism, nor towards more subliminal acts of injustice.

It’s been over 50 years since the Civil Rights Division was created, and after high turnover rates and a deterioration of its mission, I emphatically look forward to witnessing the Obama administration’s push towards reviving it once more. Change has indeed come to America.