Last week, while we were intently focused on the bombing of an alleged Daesh hideout in Afghanistan, the increasing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, and Trump’s various incoherent tweets ‘n twits, there was other news, largely unnoticed. This one crossed my radar yesterday ……
On Wednesday, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, formally announced Candice Jackson as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Ms. Jackson will act as assistant secretary in charge of the office until the position of secretary is filled. By law, she can serve in the position for only 210 days, however we have seen how Trump reverses laws with a swipe of his pen. DeVos has not yet selected a nominee, who would require confirmation by the Senate.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education that is primarily focused on protecting civil rights in federally assisted education programs and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, handicap, age, or membership in patriotic youth organizations.
In the 2016 fiscal year, the office processed almost 17,000 civil rights complaints, and opened 4,000 investigations. In the days after the Trump administration rescinded the guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, representing 60 organizations, sent a letter to Ms. DeVos asking for the next head of the civil rights office to have a track record of upholding student rights, and fighting systemic and individual cases of discrimination. The coalition, which includes organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and the National Women’s Law Center, called it “one of the most significant decisions you and the president will make with regard to the civil rights of the nation’s students.”
Jackson has very little to qualify her for this position, as she has scant experience in the field of civil rights law. She is a longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, who has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by an economist, Murray N. Rothbard (in line for a future Idiot of the Week award), who is strongly against both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
During her senior year at Stanford, Jackson complained that she was discriminated against because she was Caucasian, and said that “giving special assistance to minority students is a band-aid solution to a deep problem.” Around the same time, she also condemned feminism, saying, “In today’s society, women have the same opportunities as men to advance their careers, raise families, and pursue their personal goals. College women who insist on banding together by gender to fight for their rights are moving backwards, not forwards. I think many women are instinctively conservative, but are guided into the folds of feminism before discovering the conservative community.”
While everyone is certainly entitled to their personal opinion, Ms. Jackson’s opinions appear to be the direct antithesis to the ideology and responsibility of the office she has been tasked to oversee, in a manner similar to other Trump advisory selections.
In 2005, Jackson wrote a book, titled Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine, in which she criticized liberals for placing too much emphasis on helping women and people of color. She also wrote that sexual harassment laws and policies ignore “the reality that unwanted sexual advances are difficult to define.” Hard to define? Interestingly, when a number of women accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment during the presidential campaign, Jackson referred to the women as “fake victims” who were lying “for political gain,”
There is nothing in Jackson’s past to indicate that she would aggressively protect civil rights in schools and college campuses. In fact, quite the opposite, since she appears to find sexual harassment “difficult to define”.
So, just as we asked why Scott Pruitt was selected to lead the very department (EPA) he had sued thirteen times, we must ask why a woman who does not appear to support civil rights was tapped to lead the Office of Civil Rights? The answer, I believe, is two-fold. First, Trump appears determined to undermine certain offices and administrative agencies by selecting people whose beliefs are 180° different from the purpose of the office. Second, there is Ms. Jackson’s contribution to Trump’s campaign last year. What did she contribute?
Jackson helped the Trump campaign connect with three of former president Bill Clinton’s accusers in order to invite them to the second presidential debate before which Trump held a press conference with them highlighting President Clinton’s ‘victimization’ of them. Also of benefit to the Trump campaign, Jackson highlighted Hillary Clinton’s former role as a public defender, during which she represented a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. I firmly believe this position is a reward for the role she played in helping Trump in his smear campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Betsy DeVos’s first official policy act was to support the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Obama administration’s federal guidance protecting the rights of transgender students. News organizations reported that DeVos was personally opposed to the action but went along with it. She went along … with a policy to which she was opposed. What does this say about her willingness to fight for the rights of others?
The current administration has shown disdain for the enforcement of civil rights in the U.S. by the appointment of Jeff Sessions, a proven racist, to the office of Attorney General. The selection of Jackson to lead, albeit temporarily, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is yet another slap in the face to the rights, of women, minorities, and the LGBT community.