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Should Civil Rights Panel Be Abolished?

March 30, 1985

Carl Rowan, in his column (Editorial Pages, March 12), "Abolish the Civil Rights Panel--Pendleton Made it a Sham," begs the question when he accuses me of racial polarization.

Had I observed the conventional pieties and accused whites or society of racism, Rowan would applaud. He objects not only to my views, but to the very expression of them. He finds it heretical for the chairman of the Civil Rights Commission to believe, along with a majority of Americans, both black and white, that racial discrimination is always wrong, whether the victims are black or white.

No one benefits when a medical school rejects a white applicant with an A- (3.6) grade-point average and high test scores in favor of a black with a C (2.2) average and dismal scores. What polarizes society is not forthright demands for equal treatment without regard to race, but laying off innocent white policemen or firemen to protect the jobs of blacks who were never denied their jobs due to discrimination and who have less seniority than the whites.

While white victims may not be large in number, the integrity of the entire civil rights movement is undermined when we practice discrimination in the guise of opposing it.

During the heroic days of the civil rights movement, those who demanded equality under the law were, as Rowan notes, met with "cattle prods, fire hoses, police dogs, jail terms." It is a sad commentary on human nature that some of those who displayed physical and moral courage in demanding equality of rights under the law and the Constitution have gone on to demand racial preference under the same laws and the same Constitution.

CLARENCE M. PENDLETON JR.

Washington, D.C.

Pendleton is chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

I would like to express my agreement with Rowan's column calling for the abolishment of the Commission on Civil Rights.

I was one of many members of Congress who struggled to preserve the commission in 1983 after President Reagan fired three members critical of his civil rights policies precipitating a crisis over its independence. At the end of that year, the White House double-crossed Congress by refusing to fulfill its commitment to reappoint two Republican commissioners who supported civil rights enforcement. This restructured Civil Rights Commission then set about to reverse 20 years of civil rights progress somehow making the victims of discrimination appear as the new villains.

Last year, I testified before the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the commission along with the chairs of the Congressional Women's Hispanic Caucuses, numerous civil rights and women's organizations. Back then we urged the commission be defunded because it had forgotten its mandate.

As Rowan wrote, the commission was established to compile an unassailable assessment of the status of civil rights in America and to act as an instrument of healing. Instead, it has become a primary source of racial bitterness and polarization in our society.

Civil rights questions in the 1980s are controversial and complicated. But if we are to work for a national consensus and a more just society, then these questions must be handled with objectivity and sensitivity. The commission, and specifically its chairman, have failed totally on both counts.

It is sad that the commission can no longer uphold the mandate that Congress established in 1957 when this panel was created. However, given its record over the past two years, I agree that our nation is best served by ending this commission and looking for other means to bring our nation together on questions of civil rights rather than pushing us farther apart. JULIAN C. DIXON

Member of Congress

28th District

Los Angeles

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