Paul R. Lehman, Civil Rights Act of 1964 still misunderstood by many relative to African AmericansFebruary 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in academic qualifications, Affirmative Action, African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, college admission, Constitutional rights, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, Equal Opportunity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, liberty, minority, Prejudice, public education, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, The U.S. Constitution, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, American women, black, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Constitutional rights, equality of opportunity, ethnicity, European Americans, Prejudice, Public Accomadations, The U.S. Constitution, Title IX, white
Today, some fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed many Americans still do not know what it was about and some of the results of the signing. From a political and historical perspective, the 1964 signing of the Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson spelled the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in the South. For African Americans, women, and other American minorities, it represented the beginning of new opportunities for life, liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Many European Americans viewed the Civil Rights Act as the government’s efforts to give special privileges to African Americans. The reason for the Act was due to many ethnic and minority Americans not being able to enjoy the rights and privileges of a first class citizen.
Many European Americans believe that the Civil Rights Acts was written specifically for African Americans because Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name has been associated with it. The truth is that the Act says absolutely nothing about African Americans or any other Ethnic Americans. So, the critics that try to discredit the Act by claiming it is for African Americans are just plain wrong. If one is serious about wanting to find fault with the ’64 Civil Rights Act, they need to take a time out and look at what has happened since the Act was signed.
Women and other minorities were prevented from attending some of the most renowned colleges and universities simply because the colleges had the right to pick and choose who they wanted at their institutions. For proof, all one needs to do is look at the graduation class pictures of any of these schools and count how many women and minorities are included. Then find a picture of a recent graduating class and compare the number of minorities and women. Chances are the results will show a drastic increase of women and minorities in the recent pictures. Why, because the Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for institutions to discriminate against individuals because of their color and/or gender. As a result many women European American as well as African American women have benefited from the new opportunities provided by the Act.
The first paragraph of the Act states that:
To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.
If we look at the results that the Civil Rights Acts have had on African Americans, we discover a mixed- bag of experiences. The purpose of the Act was to ensure justice and fairness for all Americans because before the Act, only European American males enjoyed the liberties and privileges afforded the first class citizens. Discrimination against African Americans, women, and other American minorities existed in education, employment, public accommodations as well as some federal programs. Since the passage of the Act many Americans have experienced opportunities to improve their lives, none more than the European American female. So, for someone to say that civil rights is for African Americans is false; all Americans have civil rights, it is just that African Americans, women, and other Americans minorities were never provided with the opportunity to enjoy theirs.
The passage of the ’64 Civil Rights Act did not bring immediate relief to those Americans who had been discriminated against since the beginning of American society. A brief reminder of the past tells us that the American women did not get the vote until 1920; African Americans attended segregated public schools until 1954; and it was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that women began making headway in the medical and legal professions. Again, we are not speaking of African American women, but all American women.
Much of the recent progress of African Americans, women, and other minorities comes as a result of programs like Affirmative Action and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many people today take for granted the participation of women in the legal, medical, athletic professions, not to mentions the areas of service like law enforcement, postal workers, fire fighters, construction workers, and a host of others that were closed to women and minorities for many years.
African American and other minority males have benefited from the Civil Rights Act, but not to the extent that women have and still are benefiting. For example, more women attend and graduate from college than men. That is not the say that all Americans are treated fairly because of the Act. That would be false. The fact concerning the Civil Rights Act is that many Americans who never understood it are still against it. Some individuals continue to challenge programs like Affirmative Action because they believe it discriminates against the European Americans in areas like college and university admissions where they believe African Americans are given a preference.
After more than three-hundred-years of segregation, discrimination, and bigotry American society making a smooth transition to a fair and just society would be a miracle. Change takes time because some people who were born into a society where they received privileges and power, come to believe those things came with their birth and skin complexion. These people need to become acquainted with the Constitution under which they live so they will realize that the rights and privileges they presume to have are no longer given to people because of their skin color.
So, the next time someone makes the claim that civil rights are only for African Americans, like some individuals of national repute have done, they should be required to back-up those claims with documented proof. After all, the preamble to the Constitution states that “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United State of America.” Nowhere is there a reference to color, gender, or ethnicity in that statement. All Americans should enjoy their civil rights.