When the Marching Stopped: The Politics of Civil Rights Regulatory Agencies

By Hanes Walton Jr. | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

The most striking aspect of Walton's book is his understanding of the effect on civil rights progress of the institutionalization of enforcement agencies in the federal government. As he explains, once a movement gains legislation and a bureaucracy to enforce it, a perceptible decline in commitment results. Political and budgetary resource considerations come into play, and managers in agencies naturally move with more care and less risk-taking than movement people. Also those who participated in a movement may have a tendency to turn their attention to other things, placing little pressure on the bureaucracy to act. Therefore, another non-violent, direct action movement using different strategies and tactics may be necessary in order to stimulate greater attention to providing an equal opportunity for health, education, employment, and other concomitants of a satisfactory livelihood in our society.

I am also impressed with Walton's understanding of the role destined for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in our national government. During my first years on the Commission, we took seriously our "watchdog" and conscience within the government role. We urged and prodded Presidents and the Congress to adopt strong, broad interpretations of their powers to act to enforce voting rights, the right of access for women and people of color to quality education, non-discrimination and affirmative action in employment, and quality integrated housing. For our troubles, President Reagan tried to fire not just "liberal" or Democratic Commissioners, but all of them. In the Bob Jones University case, when we tried to prevent giving a tax credit to segregated schools, we offended the Administration. It was a classic example of the Commission at work. We wrote letters to the President and Congress drawing upon analyses

-xv-

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