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Professor Appointed to Head Civil Rights Panel

September 18, 1993|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Friday appointed Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania history professor, to head the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Berry, a longtime member of the panel, is the first woman appointed to lead the commission.

Clinton called her "a civil rights scholar as well as an advocate." She also was a leading critic of Clinton's decision to abandon the nomination of C. Lani Guinier as head of the Justice Department's civil rights division.

She currently is the senior member of the commission and served as vice chairwoman of the eight-member panel during the Jimmy Carter Administration.

Earlier this week, Berry said America needs to halt the "internalization of racism and hate" and said the only way federal programs can be used to fight the problem is if they are targeted on specific social ills.

"The minute you start talking about targeted programs, you start talking about race," she said. "Racism is (an accomplice) in everything. We know it when we feel it. Denial only helps you psychologically to get along."

Berry is a former assistant secretary for education in the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

The commission, established in 1957, evaluates federal laws, monitors the government's equal opportunity programs and serves as a clearinghouse for civil rights information.

During the Ronald Reagan and George Bush administrations, the commission was criticized by civil rights groups for its positions, including opposition to affirmative action programs.

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