Policy Essay
An Attack on America’s Peacemakers Is an Attack on All of Us: On the Importance of Embracing the Power of Communities and Rejecting the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Eliminate the Community Relations Service

An Attack on America’s Peacemakers Is an Attack on All of Us: On the Importance of Embracing the Power of Communities and Rejecting the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Eliminate the Community Relations Service

Becky Monroe

*

As images of neo‐Nazis marching through our streets fill our screens, and reports of a growing number of hate crimes sweep the country, how can the Community Relations Service (CRS), a small component of the U.S. Department of Justice created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, help preserve democracy? What is at stake when the Trump Administration threatens to essentially eliminate CRS? This Essay describes the ways in
which CRS not only helps communities address tension associated with discrimination, reduce the potential for violence, and prevent and respond more effectively to hate crimes, but also how its services help strengthen democracy.
 
Part I explores how the brief, yet innovative provisions of Title X of the Civil Rights Act provided the foundation for an agency that could effectively engage with communities, earn trust, and support local leaders in developing local mechanisms for addressing longstanding issues. Part II provides a look at the scope of CRS’ work through case studies to demonstrate how CRS converts its statutory mandate into action. Part III
describes how the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for CRS and to move its services to the Civil Rights Division would violate the terms and spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
 
The Essay concludes with a discussion of how the attack on CRS represents an attack on the democratic ideals embodied by an agency that derives its authority and power from the communities it serves. The elimination of CRS would deprive communities of an important resource to keep people safe and remove a key tool to help our country honestly confront our history so we can understand the ongoing impact of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow on our country today.
 
 
* Incoming Director of the Divided Communities Project and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, Board member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, former Director of the Stop Hate Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and former Acting Director of the Community Relations Service. I would like to thank my extraordinary former colleagues at CRS. Space did not allow me to highlight the work of all of the people I was fortunate enough to work with at CRS, but their belief in the wisdom and strength of the communities we served inspired this Essay and continue to inspire me in my work as a civil rights lawyer. Many thanks as well to my fantastic current colleagues at the Stop Hate Project, who share this commitment to service and to racial justice. Thank you to Nadia Aziz, Arusha Gordon, Gabrielle Gray, Allison Nadler, and Peggy Ramin for your input on this Essay.
Cite this article:

Becky Monroe

,
An Attack on America’s Peacemakers Is an Attack on All of Us: On the Importance of Embracing the Power of Communities and Rejecting the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Eliminate the Community Relations Service
, 37 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 299 (2018).