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Civil Rights Groups: Racism Needs to be Part of the Debate

September 14, 2009

WASHINGTON - Civil rights groups charge that a campaign of racism and fear lies at the heart of current political commentary aimed at the nation's first African-American President and two advisers who are also African-American.

Malkia Cyril is the executive director and founder of the Center for Media Justice. She says more and more of the targets of these attacks seem to be people of color.

"Using race-baiting and racism as a way to weaken public conversation on critical issues is in fact a cowardly act."

She says civil rights groups are organizing a campaign to fight against commentary they see as racist.

"We need to tell the truth and to tell it in such a way that inspires people and reminds them that this country has the potential to be something great and beautiful."

Cyril adds that civil rights groups will refocus the nation away from name-calling and anger, and toward discussing the crucial issues before the American people.

"And we plan on doing that by doing every thing we can to pivot away from this poison public debate and onto the critical justice issues that are at hand."

Cyril says the extreme right uses racism to undermine real debate on crucial issues like health care and climate change. The President's African-American green jobs adviser stepped down recently, citing what he called a smear campaign against him. Cyril says the right's next target is an African-American who is an associate general counsel at the Federal Communications Commission - Mark Lloyd. Lloyd is in charge of diversity programs at the FCC. Civil rights groups are particularly concerned about attacks on Lloyd, because they view diversity in media ownership as an important component in the effort to battle institutional racism.

For more information: colorofchange.org

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA