By Jorge Mariscal
Last month the U.S. Civil Rights Commission completed its federally mandated report “Redefining Rights in America: The Civil Rights Record of the George W Bush Administration, 2001-2004.” An exhaustive analysis of President Bush’s record over the last four years, the document investigates every issue related to the on-going civil rights agenda. Republican commissioners attempted to block the report’s release to the American people.
The reasons behind the Republicans desire to hide the report are self-evident. Among other conclusions, the report states: “President Bush has not been clear in his commitment to civil rights. Overall, he has made relatively few public statements about related matters…failing to build on common ground, the Bush administration missed opportunities to build consensus on key civil rights issues and has instead adopted policies that divide Americans.”
With respect to the Latino community, the report found that President Bush has been long on rhetoric and symbolism and short on meaningful outcomes. For example, the Bush administration’s only response to the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute’s extensive report on how to educate Latino parents about college admission procedures was to create a website. While the “YoSiPuedo.gov” site may help some parents, the administration’s effort was typically negligible.
A similar lack of serious commitment was evident in President Bush’s extension of the mandate of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans (PACEEHA). Charged with developing strategies to close the achievement gap for Latino students, PACEEHA members consulted with a wide variety of educational experts and Latino constituencies, held several bilingual town hall meetings, and submitted a list of six recommendations on March 31, 2003.
A year and a half after the PACEEHA report, President Bush has yet to act on a single one of its recommendations. According to the Civil Rights Commission, “there is no evidence that the administration has implemented any specific programs to resolve the disparities that hinder equal opportunity for Hispanic students… Subsequently, despite PACEEHA’s report and the initiative’s goals, many Hispanic American students will remain unprepared for college, especially prestigious institutions.”
Even if Bush were serious about educational reform for the Latino community (or for any community including children with special education needs), the fact that in 2003 and 2004 he underfunded the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) by more than $19 billion would make such reform impossible.
Across the board, a second Bush administration would prove disastrous for Latino and other working class communities. Bush has requested a $1 billion decrease for low income housing in 2005 and additional reductions between 2005 and 2009 totaling more than $4.5 billion. He continues to claim that his faith-based initiatives are civil rights programs even though they include provisions for bypassing Title VII and thereby allowing discrimination in employment practices.
The Civil Rights Commission report paints an unflattering portrait of a president who cultivates a compassionate image in order to conceal his deceptive and reactionary policies. According to the report, “he consistently consults a narrow base for advice and support, particularly with regard to controversial civil rights issues.” As he has done in so many other areas, most notably the disastrous war in Iraq, Bush presents the voter with an arrogant and dishonest approach to civil rights and one more reason to reject him on November 2.
Jorge Mariscal is a veteran of the U.S. war in Viet Nam and Director of the Chicano/a~Latino/a Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California, San Diego.