To describe Mary Frances Berry as a liberal, as she is frequently referred to in the media, is an insult to liberalism and Berry. She is a political radical well outside the mainstream of American politics. She is unabashed in her support of out-and-out racial quotas, with no effort to disguise them in the kinder, gentler terms of ?affirmative action" or ?diversity." She has described family planning clinics in inner cities as an effort at ?genocide" of blacks. She has said that absent affirmative action, colleges and universities would be dominated by almost nothing but Jews and Asians.
So how did a woman with such objectionable views ever end up on the Civil Rights Commission, much less stay there for nearly two and half decades? President Carter appointed her to the small, largely toothless agency initially in 1980, in order not to keep her at the newly created Education Department. President Reagan fired her from the agency shortly after I became director, but an ensuing court battle and media frenzy inspired Congress to rewrite the law, giving Congress, then controlled entirely by Democrats, authority to appoint half the commission's members, ensuring her re-appointment. And President Clinton elevated her to chairman in part to appease her after he passed over the commission and named an entirely new advisory body to engage in what he called a ?national dialogue on race."
Now that Berry is gone, the commission can get back to its original purpose: monitoring the enforcement of civil rights laws, especially the Voting Rights Act, conducting high-quality research on civil rights, and reporting to the president, Congress and the public on the status of race relations in the United States. The new chairman, Gerry Reynolds, who once worked as legal counsel for my Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), and Vice Chairman Abigail Thernstrom, who sits on CEO's board, will have their hands full wresting control of the commission from an entrenched, sometimes hostile staff of Berry acolytes. But both are tough, smart, experienced professionals dedicated to the true principles of equal opportunity and more than equal to the job.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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