Democratic Commissioner Says Civil Rights Conference Will Cost $100K

Today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be holding its national conference at the National Press Club in D.C. As we told you yesterday, the conservative-dominated Commission is under fire from civil rights organizations for ignoring important issues, and many organizations wouldn’t be attending the conference at all.

Late yesterday, Commissioner Michael Yaki, who was appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), issued a statement slamming the conservatives on the commission for keeping him and two other commissioners out of the planning of the conference, which he called “woefully short on civil rights.”Yaki said he expects the conference — which, among other topics, will debate whether the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should continue to exist — to attract at best a few hundred attendees at a cost of $100,000 to the government.

He also said the conference, much of which will focus on family structure and education reform, ignores fundamental civil rights issues of the day — including the recent surge in Islamophobia.

“The topics are extremely narrow and do not begin to address the issues raised in the 21st century — such as immigration backlash on our Hispanic community, Islamophobia since 9/11, gay and lesbian rights, just to name a few — much less those issues that still linger from the last fifty years since the Commission’s inception,” Yaki said in a statement.

Here is Yaki’s his statement, in full:

“It is a sad day when the United States Commission on Civil Rights sponsors a so-called ‘national conference’ that is not national in scope and woefully short on civil rights. It does not seek to solicit the input or participation of notable and distinguished civil rights organizations representing Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Women’s organizations. The topics are extremely narrow and do not begin to address the issues raised in the 21st century — such as immigration backlash on our Hispanic community, Islamophobia since 9/11, gay and lesbian rights, just to name a few — much less those issues that still linger from the last fifty years since the Commission’s inception.

It is important to note that this agenda was entirely the work of five conservative Commissioners and does not reflect any participation or input from the two Democratic apppointees to the Commission — myself and Commissioner Arlan Melendez — nor input from the lone Republican who has made immense contributions to the literature on civil rights and education, Vice-Chair Abigail Thernstrom. The three of us — a bipartisan minority on the Commission — were excluded from all planning for the conference and indeed did not even know who the speakers would be until very recently.

We are spending over $100,000 of taxpayer funds for a conference that may attract, at best, a few hundred attendees. Hopefully, under new leadership, the Civil Rights Commission may regain its credibility and once again address the important issues affecting continuing and new forms of discrimination in our society.”

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