Do we need civil liberties groups anymore?

equalityHere’s the good news. Women are doing better than ever in the workforce. And here’s some more good news – ethnic minorities are also thriving. So what’s the point of pouring millions of dollars into promoting and maintaining civil liberties groups? Isn’t it “job done” for such bodies?

Lots of discussion here in the UK about the role and relevance of Britain’s Equalities Commission. This piece feels that such groups are outdated and that it’s wrong to assume that all minorities share the same view.
“Don’t we need a big organisation committed to equality in the wider sense, and to human rights more generally? We certainly do. It’s called a government”

Last week President Obama spoke at the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) annual convention. Here’s a letter to the New York times from the NAACP responding to Obama’s comment about minorities taking individual responsibility. “Personal responsibility will not remove the barriers that a legacy of racism and exclusion has left for millions of African-Americans. “  They certainly feel there’s still a problem.

And many may feel that the recent Prof. Henry Gates affair has reinforced the need to keep such an organisation alive. This article argues that Obama would not be where he is today if it wasn’t for movements like the NAACP.

So do we still need civil liberties groups to fill in the gaps in society? Or are they an outdated group of organisations that just serve a small elite?

28 Responses to “Do we need civil liberties groups anymore?”

  1. July 27, 2009 at 10:35

    While there is a semblance that the racial divide in America has been bridged, there is still an implicit division of the blacks and whites. Holistically, there is an intrinsic class system all over the globe. Civil liberty groups are still necessary to keep a check on these systems.

  2. 2 VictorK
    July 27, 2009 at 10:37

    Civil liberties and equality are entirely different creatures.

    Debate one or the other, but don’t confuse the two.

  3. 3 deryck/trinidad
    July 27, 2009 at 11:57

    Sad to say Civil Liberty goups are needed the world over because there is racial divisions and the denial of access to certain jobs, political positions, institutions commodities and services.

    We need Civil Liberty groups in Mauritania, Sudan, Rwanda, Malaysia, India, Yemen, Iran, Israel and Palestine and more.

  4. 4 Rob (UK)
    July 27, 2009 at 12:47

    I don’t think the type of people Amnesty helps are part of some ‘elite’. And can we stop using that word? The ‘elite’ aren’t some mysterious overprivileged sect. They’re just people who did well in their exams.

  5. 5 Bob in Queensland
    July 27, 2009 at 13:01

    If you look at some of the supposed-anti-terrorism laws passed in the UK and USA in the past few years, I’d say we need civil liberties groups more than ever.

    However, from the example you raise, I suspect you mean “equality” rather than “civil liberty” in terms of this discussion.

  6. 6 Nigel
    July 27, 2009 at 14:06

    If “Civil Liberties” are the right to enjoy constitutionally guaranteed freedoms from things like too much or intrusive government then we need the rights groups more than ever to make sure the fine line that separates increased security from “Big Brother” is not crossed. Someone once said that it is better to preserve your freedoms than to curtail them under the guise of increased security. However, in some countries civil liberties and the right to enjoy these freedoms are under more pressure from crime and poverty than from intrusive or big government and the CL groups have been essentially inefective in attacking these problem leaving them instead to the governments that caused them in the first place. It would seem that strengthening in the traditional areas plus a foray in to the other areas of poor civil freedoms is on the books

  7. July 27, 2009 at 14:41

    Civil liberties groups are still needed in societies where fundamental freedoms still need to be furthered, especially those concerning the right of women and minority groups as well as the freedom to criticise wrongdoings without the risk of oppression and arrest.

    In many countries, political parties are just a facade seeking to gain power only to stifle liberties in the name of their principles that can prove unpopular or aren’t practised on the ground.

    Civil liberties groups are a form of check and balance vis-à-vis the government authority which can sometimes be favouring one section in society over another intentionally or unintentionally. These groups can have an effect on public awareness concerning disparities and lack of freedom. However, their role can be limited if they don’t have the means to effect the desirable changes.

  8. 8 tipsylife
    July 27, 2009 at 14:44

    These groups are relevant sometime but not all the time. Where they exist, they should also have clear goals and a time frame at the end of which they should be disbanded completely; else they become tools for sponging on the society. There are times when they are biased and counter productive since they may become political tools for the moneyed. These are times they engage in exergerations in order to please their sponsors.
    It is eroneous for the same groups to say that Obama was elected due to their activism. That is not true. It is all clear to all of us who followed that process that he was elected because Americans wanted change in the ways in which their national affairs should be handled by the executive. It is clear too that the blacks in America do not have enough numbers to elect their own president and this applies to other races too. Such an assertion should amount to nothing more than hubris.

  9. July 27, 2009 at 15:14

    So do we still need civil liberties groups to fill in the gaps in society?


    Are they an outdated group of organisations that just serve a small elite

    Yes – They operate in the name of promoting interfaith or multicultural ethnic minority or in the name of controlling immigration or they collect Govt funding collect Donations and Charity .

  10. 10 Helen
    July 27, 2009 at 15:48

    It may be that such groups could pick an area where minorities still suffer and are persecuted or mistreated within society or the employment structure.There is still exploitation and mistreatment of people .And I don’t expect that will change until society changes.Society won’t change unless people change .I don’t think the work of civil liberties will ever be done but the focus of their efforts might shift and address a relevant need.

  11. 11 patti in cape coral
    July 27, 2009 at 15:56

    Unfortunately, I do think we still need civil liberties groups, as well as equality groups. I had thought we were all past this, but I had my rose-colored glasses on. However, I think Mr. Obama is absolutely right about taking personal responsibility. It doesn’t do to get too comfortable being a victim all the time. Maybe we are not at the point of complete equality, but there are a lot of things that can no longer be blamed on race, or even gender. In fact, it has become something of a joke with the younger generation. My 15-year-old black niece tells me that a phrase often used when kids are joking around is “It’s because I’m black, right?” Hispanic, asian, black, and white kids use this phrase. It seems to be a euphemism for taking offense at something that wasn’t meant to be offensive. Lord, I hope I haven’t offended anyone, just reporting what I hear.

    It gets so darned uncomfortable and complicated writing these posts when they touch on race. For example, I felt compelled to specify that my niece was black, hoping that maybe her comment would not be found to be as offensive if somewhat assumed she was white. I almost deleted this twice after reviewing it, wondering if what I was saying was acceptable, or even related to civil liberties. I almost feel like I have to write a disclaimer.

  12. July 27, 2009 at 16:14

    I wouldn’t refer to the oppressed, or those with virtually no political voice, as an elite group. As eight years of George W. Bush proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, elitism is a term reserved for those in a position of power, and never applies to those most likely to need the help of organizations like the ACLU. As fear driven legislation, and state sponsored police actions, continue to make inroads into our individual rights and personal freedoms, civil liberties organizations are needed more than ever.

  13. 13 Anthony
    July 27, 2009 at 16:18

    In a lot of instances they just perpetuate that there is a “difference” between them and white heterosexual males.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  14. July 27, 2009 at 16:22

    My comments do not need any moderation!

  15. 15 Ed McMorrow, class of 1984
    July 27, 2009 at 16:54

    Fortunately, the issues which most of the original civil rights groups were formed to combat, such as racial discrimination in the USA, have been defeated.

    Nevertheless, other issues remain around the world. These include minority persecution ranging from discrimination to genocide in places such as Darfur, the treatment of women in many places such as fundamentalist Islamic countries following Sharia law, and the treatment of female children in China and other such places.

    As a result, the civil rights groups still have a great many international which they can, and should address.

  16. 16 Jennifer
    July 27, 2009 at 16:56

    Re: Last week President Obama spoke at the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) annual convention.

    Post a video of him speaking there.

    Come back now, ya hear!

    That’s all I have to say!


  17. 17 T
    July 27, 2009 at 17:04

    Yes we do. In this corporate society, someone has to stand up for those who need help.

  18. 18 nora
    July 27, 2009 at 17:25

    As a Scottish American who spent four days in jail and had the District Attorney pressure me to cop to a crime I did not commit because, as he said, I had already done the time, I know we still need civil liberties groups. Under Bush and Clinton, there was a series of changes that endangered our civil liberties with law enforcement. With the budget problems here in California, more and more violent wrongful arrests are taking place here in Santa Cruz County. We used to have a citizen police commission to take complaints to. After a series of budget cuts we no longer have one. Now all we have is internal affairs within law enforcement, or civil liberties groups.

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Add guns and billy clubs…..

  19. 19 RightPaddock
    July 27, 2009 at 17:55

    “Equal Opportunities Commissions” are not only unnecessary but by there very nature they are themselves discriminatory

    In countries that do not have an enforceable Bill of Rights, and that’s just about everywhere outside of the US what’s s needed is a Human Rights Commission, whose job is to protect us ALL from the tyranny of others and discrimination by others, including governments. The alternative is a US style Supreme Court that in itself is a law unto itself.

  20. 20 Dave in Florida
    July 27, 2009 at 17:57

    There ARE differences between races and ethnicities, and at times they can be hard to overlook when it is different cultures together in one area. One person’s norm may be completely unacceptable to another person’s norm. Where do you draw-the-line (except in the case of violence), and why is it that one of these people is always wrong?

    Why is it so hard to realize we are different?

  21. 21 nora
    July 27, 2009 at 18:32

    Civil liberties, in the Gates case, are at the heart of the matter. The sanctity of one’s home is a civil liberty. The policeman should have given his badge number in good humor and could easily have gone to his car, looked up Gates driver license and determined that he was the home owner. End of story. Without organized civil libertarians, police never would have had to identify themselves in the first place, and Gates would not have been teaching at traditional Whitey McWhite ruling class schools like Harvard.

    Founding Father Thomas Jefferson suggested that we should not go twenty years without a revolution if we want our freedoms. Civil liberties groups keep our necessary social revolutions in process, however imperfectly.

  22. 22 Tom K in Mpls
    July 27, 2009 at 19:10

    They are a bunch of over-the-top people with a good if impatient and unrealistic goals. These groups do help control and weed out the true crackpots such as the swimming American in Burma. But still some like Geldoff and Bono have the money to get past this.

    Now the better question this is based on would be, ‘is there a way to stop bad rulers from getting power in other countries?’.

  23. 23 tipsylife
    July 27, 2009 at 19:17

    Civil liberties mashroom in areas where laws are not admistered equally. In fact they are a testimony that all is not well. We would expect the national law and constitution to take over all the work of these so called civil liberty organizations.
    Pride or arrogance by one group may they be black or white should be a thing of the past. I agree that blacks in America have suffered. This should not be dramatized. Society takes a long time to reform, but it is reforming and coperation among its citizens should remove the remaining huddles. There is no need for America to have divided communites like china town, black towns, latino towns and so forth. Up to whwen will communities dwell in cocoons of the victimized? Up to when will the well off society both black and white will continue to ignore the fact that some of its humanity; again black and white are wallowing in poverty and they need to be helped in order to live meaningful lives. It is the lack of such consideratons that provide fodder for civil liberty lobby groups dude behavior by a section of society.

  24. 24 Jason
    July 27, 2009 at 20:00

    I have HQ audio of the 911 call, Moderator, If you are interested

  25. 25 Brian from Ca.
    July 27, 2009 at 20:52

    Yeah, most are great, but some cops are out of control.

  26. July 28, 2009 at 04:36

    not all of the people care about it..

  27. 27 P.R. Deltoid
    July 28, 2009 at 18:00

    There is no such thing has freedom, only different levels of restriction. The more wealth you have the fewer restrictions you have.

    “Freedom” is abnormal and against human nature. That’s why people since the beginning of time continue to have to battle for human rights.

    The world has operated the same way since the beginning of time and it will never change. We think we have evolved because we have the Internet.

    The objective of all people, cultures and civilizations has always been to either get power, wealth and sex or try to keep it.

    People hate each other. Commerce is the only reason people tolerate each other.

    If it were possible to separate all the different groups that wanted to be separate and give them equal resources the same things that happen now and are attributed to race, religion and culture would still happen within in those groups. It’s human nature.

  28. 28 Dennis Junior
    July 29, 2009 at 04:10

    Civil Liberties Groups will not be going away anytime soon; Since, there will always be complaints of misconduct….

    ~Dennis Junior~

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