Why the President Is Simply Wrong on Civil Rights

How can a former constitutional law professor, an attorney general and an iconic organization get it so wrong on civil rights?

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When you look at it, it is hard to tell if the White House, the Department of Justice and the NAACP are merely a collective sign of the times or the reasons why the times are sadly changing.

Over the course of the past week, all three iconic institutions have corrupted the legacy of civil rights activism in America, using their efforts to support legal initiatives that pervert the legacy of black civil rights leaders with self-serving and misguided political efforts that, if successful, will corrupt the definitions of right and wrong in our nation.

President Barack Obama's initial criticism of Arizona's SB 1070 illegal immigration law has grown from publicly speaking out against the bill himself to allowing Mexico's President Felipe Calderón to rail against the bill from the floor of the U.S. Congress. Now President Obama's objection to the law has prompted a lawsuit from the Department of Justice against the Arizona statute. The lawsuit alleges that this state law supersedes federal law on illegal immigration (which, by the way, it does not--it merely enforces federal law), and charges that the law will discriminate against Spanish-speaking people--including the illegal immigrants that the law targets under conditions.

Of late, rumors have been swirling of presidential amnesty for illegal immigrants; U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) charged that the president is using the issue of border security as a ploy to win amnesty for undocumented workers currently residing in the United States. In the midst of all this, the Department of Justice lawsuit comes across to many political conservatives and moderates as a political maneuver to gain support for the Obama administration as it attempts to shape immigration reform in the partisan, self-serving fashion that health care and stimulus bills were passed so far.

This effort has been supported by Obama supporters including Rev. Al Sharpton, activists who have promised to bring people to Arizona to protest ''... in the spirit of the Freedom Riders from the civil rights movement...'' This is notably troubling considering that the civil rights of non-citizens of the United States have remained a driving factor in the move to file this lawsuit, a move that says as much about the White House's political motives as it does about the incorrectly fluid definitions of ''civil rights'' and ''human rights'' within the administration and its supporters on the left.

The political zeal for this lawsuit against Arizona contrasts suspiciously with the lack of Justice Department action against the New Black Panther Party over voter intimidation tactics used during the 2008 presidential election. These acts of intimidation at the polls were documented repeatedly on film, activity committed by individuals that had no shame in being recorded while spewing their hatred for white Americans. Yet, Attorney General Eric Holder's department has repeatedly refused to file charges against principal actors from the 2008 events, despite continued complaints for some sort of action in the spirit and defense of civil rights for all Americans, particularly those in the process of practicing their civil right to vote.

The department's silence in this instance rings of hollow political expedience and whimsical pre-conditions of what constitutes civil rights violations in today's America - criteria defined by the powers that be, not the power for equality entailed in the Constitution. When the Department of Justice is capable of determining that the rights of non-citizens must be championed as it condones American citizens being intimidated and threatened while enacting their right to vote, we are approaching a point in America where justice is too subjective to be counted on to provide stability and equality for our citizens on a regular basis.

The civil rights issue with black criminalization around the drug trade is ultimately not centered on the amount of arrests made in the black community, as changing the definition of ''crime'' does not change the conditions of these men. Instead, the civil rights issue missed by the NAACP is centered on the conditions that make the drug life more appealing and available to young black men than education, family unity and career advancement--all items that the NAACP used to be more focused on than legalizing crime and community decay.

All three instances exhibit a growing willingness of black leaders within America to leverage the legacy of successes of the civil rights movement and use the historical weight to guide the pursuit of American civil rights away from equality and justice and toward self-prescribed definitions of what is right and wrong based on pop politics and eroding social values. The power driving the civil rights movement of the 20th century was its incorruptible view of justice, a trait that allowed its leaders to appeal to the conscience of the world while leveraging the timelessness of the Constitution to forge past the injustices black people suffered. Today, the call to secure civil rights for people has been spread to political and social offshoots that would make our ancestors cringe should they witness the subjectivity of such contemporary matters--all while we miss grand opportunities before us to stand for civil rights and true justice even if the choices to do so are difficult as they were years ago.

These current decisions to ''advocate for civil rights'' only works to corrode the moral authority that black America garnered over the course of history with the abolition movement, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow Era and the civil rights movement of the 20th century. We are in need of a new civil rights movement--in politics, social activism and community redevelopment--but not one that pursues civil rights in the modes recently displayed by the White House, the Department of Justice and California's NAACP.