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Rights Commission Gives Anger Outlet

A New York City artist has set up an answering machine in his home. He calls himself “Mr. Confession” and he urges men and women to call. They do. They confess to lying, cheating, lusting. They feel better after telling someone their woes.

Mr. Confession provides this service for art’s sake, but he’s a bit like the Spokane Human Rights Commission. The little-known, taxpayer-financed commission listens to citizen complaints about perceived injustices. Since it opened in May 1992, the commission has collected more than 160 complaints of human rights violations, ranging from the trite to the troublesome. Most of the alleged violations occurred in workplaces and in schools; half have been race-related.

The commission costs taxpayers $45,000 a year. Its funding is always vulnerable, a seemingly easy place to save some bucks. We say keep the commission, because it provides a necessary service. When people get really angry these days, they either maim, kill or sue.

The commission offers another avenue.

Like Mr. Confession, the commission provides people a place to vent. It also helps pinpoint potential trouble spots in our community. The commission has no legal power to stop the injustices, but it can investigate and let all involved parties know that something might be askew.

That’s what it did recently, when a man called to complain that a Domino’s pizza deliveryman told him Domino’s doesn’t deliver to the East Central neighborhood. The man alleged the driver called the neighborhood “little Africa” and told him “that’s where all the blacks are.”

A Domino’s manager said that he doubted a driver said those words, but he did confirm that drivers won’t deliver pizzas at night in a 10-block radius because drivers have been assaulted there.

This is a problem, whatever is going on. Maybe now East Side community leaders and managers from Domino’s will sit down and talk with each other. Is it truly a danger to deliver pizzas on the East Side? Or is some prejudice at work here? At least the concern is out in the open.

Our community is changing fast. As are the rules that govern acceptable community behavior. It’s a land of confusion. The commission offers a place to call to ask some tough questions. View the commission as the city’s version of Mr. Confession. Keep the line open.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board