Terminology means a lot. Especially in Congress. The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has been renamed to just: the “Subcommittee on the Constitution.” I find this troubling there was a rationalization for the change in name; according to Megan Mitchell, a congressional spokeswoman, “We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights including civil and human rights. We will focus on these rights along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.” By not speaking about something explicitly (i.e. omitting two very important items from the name of a subcommittee tasked with oversight of those items) it’s a little too easy to forget them.
Has there been a shift in priority? In a time of such conflict and turmoil over civil and human rights, why get rid of those specific names now? I find it troubling, this from a group of our elected officials who can’t agree on ratifying something as dedicated to civil and human rights as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a convention that, at it’s core, is a promise to not discriminate against people with disabilities. It’s honoring the promise of the ADA (on which the CRPD is heavily based).
Some may think that there is needless concern over this, after all, the subcommittee will be judged on its actions, not just its name. It just seems there isn’t a lot of accountability. I don’t want to run the risk of my rights as a person with a disability (my civil rights) being jeopardized or eliminated. This is the year that the ADA turns 25, a year where I’m so happy and feel so empowered to see “Disability Rights are Civil Rights” in my office and community, but according to some lawmaker that saying should just shortened to “Rights.” I guess they forgot that the reason we have legislation for civil and human rights is because not all people were included in the constitution originally. The ADA is still young, our rights as a community weren’t codified that long ago. I think our “representatives” need to remember the struggle that people have gone through to earn the rights and access that a privileged few enjoyed for a long time.