Andrew Card Jr. is probably in some hot water right now. ÿ The White House Chief of Staff told USA Today that the Bush administration planned to eliminate the White House offices on AIDS and race relations. Because that information was not correct, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had to quickly correct the slip-up after the news went to print. He said that Card had "made a mistake. It happens." Though Fleischer's relaxed defense of a White House oversight is a bit disconcerting, I'm relieved that Card's announcement was incorrect. Racism and AIDS are definitely large enough issues to merit federal attention. But how much federal attention they will receive remains to be seen. Though a separate AIDS office will continue to remain open, the staff will be reduced. It is possible that Bush just plans to run the office with greater efficiency, but The Washington Post reported that some AIDS activists are suspicious that the administration is trying to pocket the issue. Receiving even less White House support are initiatives on race. The Office on the President's Initiative for One America, created in 1997, will actually be eliminated amidst White House restructuring. Instead, race issues will become the responsibility of the White House Office of Public Liaison and the White House Office of Domestic Policy Council, both of which have other responsibilities. In explaining these changes, Fleischer claimed that, "The president thinks that the solution to our nation's racial problems derives from actions and policies more than just any one office." Despite this clarification, the reason for downsizing remains unclear. If there is to be continued emphasis on these issues, why is this restructuring occurring? Exactly what "actions and policies" should we expect during the next four years? If the first few weeks are indicative of the term, we are in trouble. On February 9, the president visited Washington, D.C.'s Nalle Elementary School in honor of Black History Month. During his visit, Bush claimed that in order to curb racial profiling, he will search for ways in which the government can help police departments "compile data to get the facts on the table, to make sure people are treated fairly in the justice system." This solution seems weak. It doesn't take into account the reality that officers should already be aware that punishments are often delegated unfairly along race lines. After all, it's been over 10 years since the National Institute on Drug Abuse released its study revealing that even though African Americans only make up 15 to 20 percent of the illegal drug users in the United States, they constitute between 50 and 66 percent of drug-related arrests. If the president finds out that the police departments are aware of the situation and still can't curb this racist behavior, then what? By suggesting this mild alternative, Bush is simply avoiding actually outlawing racial profiling. Stronger initiatives need to be taken. In addition, The Associated Press reported that the International Association of Chiefs of Police has already asked the president to meet about racial profiling, but Bush has not yet set a date to meet. The recent restructuring of the White House does not have to mean the end of social reform. But if Bush thinks that giving data to police departments and making a few appearances in public schools during Black History Month is going to solve the problem of discrimination that exists in our country, he is sorely mistaken. In fact, the only real action taken towards race issues this term has been Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's move to propose the construction of a "monument to honor black contributions to the country." While a monument signifies an important recognition of African-American contributions to the U.S., it does little to remedy the economic, educational and social disparities experienced by people of color. Obviously, how Bush will deal with these issues remains to be seen. The administration, however, is already working on international affairs -- such as those in Iraq -- while current initiatives to remedy internal social injustices seem non-existent. What this country needs is action on these issues, not bureaucratic stalling. In the words of Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, "On issues as important to this country as race relations and AIDS policy, we need bold leadership, not mixed signals and more questions than answers."Comments powered by Disqus
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