The Crow Wing County Board’s Tuesday vote to abolish the Human Rights Commission was bemoaned by some and applauded by others. It’s unlikely that it came as a complete surprise to anyone.
Beset with problems, the commission wasn’t functioning very well. Leadership was an issue. Vacancies on the panel had not been filled. Attendance at meetings was flagging. Many community members questioned why the panel existed and others didn’t even know it existed. Those aren’t good signs for any organization.
Still, this newspaper had recommended giving the commission more time to put its house in order. There’s worthwhile work to be done in creating a better awareness of the challenges that are ahead for this county as it becomes more diverse. There’s also a need for a local resource where issues of discrimination can be addressed. Yes, there is a Minnesota Department of Human Rights, but St. Paul might as well be Washington, D.C., for those people without a vehicle.
Unfortunately, the Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission became a source of contentiousness among political partisans. The highly charged arguments surrounding the body, no doubt, scared away many non-political people who thought they might someday want to serve on the commission.
Since the commission had no real power or authority anyway, the best route leading to a rejuvenated human rights organization is for supporters to form a private, nonprofit organization to address human rights issues. A human rights panel doesn’t necessarily need a government framework to be successful. A group of committed individuals could shine a spotlight on discrimination where it exists and provide information for those people and institutions that previously had not had the opportunity to connect with people who are different from them. Maybe a town meeting should be conducted to organize the new panel. After all, there’s certainly more than one way to confront discrimination.