The sixth annual report is a summation of the activities of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for the period of December 1, 1970 to November 30, 1971.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is a state agency established in 1965 to enforce the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The primary responsibility given to the Commission under the statute is to investigate and resolve complaints alleging unfair discriminatory practices based on:
race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin
in matters of:
employment, housing (except sex discrimination), public accommodations, and aiding and abetting.
A supplementary function is
to plan and conduct programs designed to eliminate racial, religious, cultural,
and intergroup tensions.
The Commission views the Iowa Civil Rights Act as requiring that a person neither be denied equal opportunity nor be given preferential treatment merely because of his race, creed, color, sex, national origin, or religion. When other relevant considerations are equal or similar, a decision (regarding matters in employment, housing, or public accommodations) must not be based upon a person's minority status -- but upon his or her personal merit.
The Commission consists of seven members appointed to staggered four-year terms by the Governor, subject to senate confirmation. No more than four commissioners can belong to one political party. They serve without compensation, except for expenses while on Commission business. Commission officers are elected by the commissioners., and serve for one year starting in July. The Commission meets monthly to formulate policy for the staff to administer. As often as practicable, these meetings are held in cities other than Des Moines as a means for the Commission to focus local attention on civil rights generally in these cities and to learn firsthand -- from community leaders and members of minority groups -- about civil rights problems peculiar to those individual cities.
1971 brought a great deal of turnover among the commissioners of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. DeEdwin White was appointed to a four-year term on the Commission replacing Dr. Harry Harper of Fort Madison whose term expired. Dr. Harper was a member of the 1954 Governor's Study Committee on Discrimination in Employment and was an original member of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, appointed in 1965.
George Garcia was appointed to fill a vacancy left when John Strother left the Commission to take a position in Madison, Wisconsin. Mr. Strother had served 2 years on the Commission -1 as Commission chairman.
Sam Brown was appointed to fill an unexpired term formerly held by Dr. Lafayette Twyner of Davenport.
Abe Clayman left the Commission in late 1971 to take a position as a commissioner on the Iowa Employment Security Commission. Mr. Clayman had served 2 years on the Commission -- 1 year as Commission secretary. His vacancy has not yet been filled.
Commissioners Elizabeth Kruidenier and Lawrence Slotsky were reappointed to 4- year terms (1971 - 1975) on the Commission by Governor Ray. Each has served on the Commission since its inception in 1965 when they were appointed to 2-year terms. In 1967 they were appointed to full 4-year terms.
Madonna Skogstrom of Algona was appointed to the Commission by Governor Ray in 1969. She has two years remaining in her term of office, which expires on June 30, 1973. She is presently serving as vice-chairman of the Commission.
The only limitations put on the Governor in appointing commissioners is that no more than four be of any one political party. Thus, it has been the practice to appoint persons from many walks of life and geographical locations. Commission members come from all areas of the state and from both political parties. There are Blacks, whites and Spanish-surnamed Americans; Protestants, Catholics, and Jews; and males and females serving on the Commission. By having this broad spectrum of membership it is hoped that all peoples of the state can be better served by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission) made its report to the nation on March 1, 1968. The ominous conclusion reached in the report was: "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal." The report warned that "To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the
American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values." However, the report noted that the deepening racial division was not inevitable -- that the movement
could be reversed. It went on to list a number of positive recommendations designed to ameliorate the situation and to " . . . make good the promises of American democracy to all
citizens -- urban and rural, white and black, Spanish-surname, American Indian, and every minority group." One year later, by almost unanimous agreement, little visible improvement in
the inequities, hostile attitudes, status quo, and racial polarization had occurred. The effort to reverse this must be accelerated lest time run out. No man is exempt from responsibility in regard to arresting racial polarization in America.
There are hopeful signs, however. In the past decade the proportion of black workers in white-collar and skilled jobs has increased. Myths and stereotypes about women as employees are beginning to crumble. Businessmen are showing an increased awareness of their responsibility to provide an atmosphere free of discrimination.
But the progress is too slow. The old legal maxim "Justice delayed is justice denied" applies directly to the crimes of discrimination. And justice has been delayed for thousands of Iowa citizens waiting for their fair share of this state's bounty. The state of Iowa, through its legislature, decreed 6 1/2 years ago (May 6, 1965) that discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, and national origin was illegal. Subsequently, discrimination in housing (1967) and on the basis of sex (1970) was banned as well. The record of statistical involvement, accomplishment, and failure by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is noted here. It is a factual record. However, predominantly statistical reports, such as this one, can never be adequate in acquainting the reader with the overall accomplishment of an agency during a given period. The myriad of factors and facets that are involved in the effort to change the course of man's customs, habits, prejudices, and even more are too multitudinous and complex to permit accurate assessment of the actual and total gains made in the year immediately behind us. Hopefully, discriminatory practices have vanished in far greater proportion than enforcement agency reports can factually indicate.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has attempted to exercise its powers to the fullest in attacking discrimination (as confirmed by the recent Supreme Court decision in the Ironworkers v. Hart case, discussed later). It may be that recent advances by minorities and women in securing good jobs reflect no more than a broad socio-economic phenomenon unrelated to governmental action. There is no easy test of our agency's success However, we believe that this Commission's efforts have contributed, quite significantly, to the progress that has been achieved.
Thus we close one year and enter another, mindful of the victories and defeats of the past, and more than ever aware of the great task ahead. Lest we become complacent, the admonition of Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us appropriately of that task with its warning, "Unless we learn to live together as brothers, we shall all perish as fools."