Civil Rights and Private Business

Rand Paul set off a controversy with his comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now that Libertarian Party candiate for NYS Governor Warren Redlich has jumped in, it has become a NYS story.

Redlich is quoted in a City Hall piece by David Freedlander as having said in defense of his position that the Federal Government should not have included private businesses in its desegretation efforts that state and local governments should have dealt with the segregation question before the federal government stepped in.

But that’s just the point as anyone who knows the history of that period understands. State and local governments in the Old South were enforcing racial segregation. They were denying descendents of American slavery the right to register to vote and to vote. State and local governments were denying African Americans the right to attend publicly supported educational institutions, requiring them to attend special black-only schools and colleges. They were denying people “equal protection of the laws” by using public employees — state and local police officers — to keep blacks out of “white only” restrooms or from drinking from “white only” water fountains…and from being served at lunch counters in the local 5 and 10 cent store…and from obtaining employment solely due to the color of their skin.

We’ve all heard people say that “you can’t legislate morality”. However, the 14th amendment was not trying to change what people think or believe — just their behaviors when those behaviors denied rights due to all citizens.

Redlich is quoted as having said “The federal government can’t solve every problem”. But again Redlich is missing the point. The Federal Government must step in when a local government either fails to act to protect the rights of citizens or actively contributes to the denial of those rights.

In terms of private business, the power of the Federal Government to require equal protection by private businesses comes under Article 1, Section 8 — the interstate commerce clause which says “[The Congress shall have power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” While people still argue about the interpretation of this clause, it is now accepted as justifying intervention when a private business denies employment, or in the case of the 5 and dime lunch counter, service to someone “on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Redlich and Paul should do a little reading about the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps if they understood how different our country was half a century ago, they wouldn’t make comments that get them in hot water and undermine their credibility as candidates for public office.


One Response to Civil Rights and Private Business

  1. Douglas Boettner says:

    “Undermine their credibilty”? When did they have any to start with?

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