The Immorality of Racism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964


After reading the title of this article, most people would probably think this woman is out of her mind! How could she say that racism is immoral, but also believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is immoral as well?

I’ll tell you how, just read on.

Would anyone disagree with the fact that any structure needs a sturdy foundation in order for it to stand with unwavering integrity? I don’t think so, and that is precisely why I must begin my explanation with a few philosophical principles that provide the infrastructure for subsequent discussions.

The philosophy of individualism states that human beings are necessarily sovereign entities, where each has their own will towards goals and actions. Individualists contend that all human beings are ends in themselves and are never the means to other ends. Furthermore, human beings shall only be judged by individual moral character and not by any group that they may fictitiously belong to.

That being said, racism is a collectivist concept, and therefore an irrational concept. Racists see people as belonging to certain groups, and judge them based on their identity within that group. Racism, therefore, can consist of negative stereotypes and also positive stereotypes, and it pertains to any racial group that one may be placed in. On the contrary, if individuals are seen as sovereign individuals and judged only upon moral character, then race becomes irrelevant.

The philosophy of Individualism is the basis for the conviction that every human being is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Within the philosophy of individual liberty, it is contended that one is free to do as one pleases, until his actions infringe upon the liberty of another. Following that logic, one is free to be racist and to choose with whom to associate oneself, but one is not free to harm another human being or engage in fraudulent behavior against another human being. It is also held that it’s impossible and immoral to outlaw concepts of the mind, hence racism cannot be outlawed; it is left to the will of the individual to adhere only to rational concepts. Individualists believe that those who hold irrational beliefs, such as racism, will suffer the repercussions of evading reality.

Before discussing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is important to note that I am adamantly opposed to the Jim Crow laws, which mandated the segregation of whites and blacks by state governments. There is no denying that these laws were a disgusting product of blatant racism. It is also important to note that before the Civil Rights Act of 64’ was passed, the Jim Crow laws were slowly being overturned due to political pressure, and smaller, yet unsuccessful civil rights legislation had been passed. If the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only sought to overturn any remaining Jim Crow laws, then I would be in favor of it; unfortunately this is not the case.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination against African Americans and women in work environments and “public accommodations” (which includes private businesses). On the surface, this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, it is of paramount importance to examine how this “outlawing of discrimination” is enforced in reality. To stick to a specific example, let’s consider the enforcement in the workplace. First, we ask who is defining and enforcing discrimination? The answer is: Federal bureaucrats and judges. Second, we ask, can these people read the minds of other people? The answer: of course not. Therefore, in order to enforce non-discrimination, the federal government had to ensure that a business’ workforce had a certain racial composition, this composition being defined by federal bureaucrats and judges, otherwise known as racial quotas.

Mandated racial quotas are not egalitarian, they are racist. Quotas allow favoritism for one group of people while infringing upon the freedoms of everyone else. Racial quotas are an example of governmental racism-perpetuation via encouraging citizens to view their fellow humans in terms of group identities. The reality of racial quotas means, for one example, that a more qualified white man, or a more qualified Mexican man, may not be hired because that business has not hired enough black men to meet the quotas defined by the federal government, or vice versa.

The quotas enforced by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are not only an example of government-sponsored, perpetuated racism, but are an example of a fundamental infringement upon private ownership and of the Constitution of the United States. The federal government used the Commerce Clause in the Constitution to justify regulating private businesses, but this was not the intended usage of that clause.

Deliberate for a moment this question: do you think that the federal government should have the power to dictate who you allow into your own home? I hope that your answer is no, and if it is, then why should the federal government dictate who you let into your own place of business- whether it be an employee or customer? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 destroys property rights by forcing private business owners to hire individuals based on race and not on individual abilities. This mandate affects the personal liberties of all Americans and is not egalitarian, since the rights of individuals are being infringed upon while a certain group is being favored.

Readers don’t despair. It is easy to misconstrue the private property argument into something that it’s not. Many people get flustered and scream in horror that if government doesn’t regulate private property, then all hell will break loose. That concern is a common fallacy, especially in the context of the present discussion. Keep in mind that federal laws that actually do protect individual liberties still hold true, regardless of private property. For example, under federal law, one individual may not murder another individual anywhere within the jurisdiction of the United StatesTherefore, although an employer is free to refuse employment to a black man for whatever reason due to his private ownership, he is never free to harm a black man on his property.

Furthermore, it is necessary to consider what employment actually is. When you get a job, the owner of the business agrees to hire you and you agree to work for him, and you both sign a contract. You both sign this contract peacefully, voluntarily, and with the same understanding of what will take place between one another. Volunteerism is one of the basic principles of free market capitalism. No one is forcing you to work without pay, and no one is forcing the employer to pay you to work. Volunteerism and mutual consent is exhibited in the free market without government intervention- it is done by the will and by the spontaneous action of individuals. Now, what happens when the iron fist of government comes down upon the heads of those wishing to engage in peaceful contracts? First comes coercion, then comes force, shortly followed by guns, and then comes resentment. The resentment comes from both sides of the coin; the employer resents the minority because he is forced to hire him, and the minority resents the employer because he wonders if he is only being hired because the employer is forced to hire him. Hence, perpetuated racism.

When the federal government refrains from infringing upon the freedoms of property owners, those property owners take risks with every free decision that they make. Their decisions must be weighed by possible benefits and by possible risk in regards to human action. For example, if a restaurant owner wants to refuse service to black people, he must first consider what type of customer base he will gain and what type he will lose. Would you go to a restaurant that refused service to black people? No, and neither I nor anyone that I know would. Plus, that business owner would be losing the black man’s business, and therefore his money. The business owner in question needs to weigh his own irrational values and his right to practice them, against the morale of his customer base. I know this may sound harsh, but this is how social problems are solved without coercion of government, in a free market society.

Arguing for the deregulation of private property does not mean that individuals should accept discrimination and racism as inevitable, or that individuals shouldn’t fight for equality. Civil disobedience is encouraged under the individualistic philosophy. Non-violent protest and revolutions are also encouraged. Civil disobedience and non-violent protest are principles of change via ideas and reason, not via the point of a gun (as the government uses). Just imagine how many people, of all races, came forward to join in the protests led by Martin Luther King Jr. Whether those people were too afraid before, or whether Dr. King changed minds, it brought people together. I believe that the idea of individual liberty and freedom brought the people together via ideas. Even if the Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed after those protests, and businesses still tried to implement segregation, I think it is fair to say that those establishments would lose a lot of business and people would continue to protest until businesses changed their policies. The important principle to note here, is that the business owners would change their policy voluntarily and willingly, and not because of force via government. To the businessman, his choice is either to change his policies, or lose his business (not go to jail).

This essay is an all-to-brief explanation of the wrongness of the Civil Rights Act. I have only provided one small set of examples in order to delineate a philosophical framework for consideration. I would encourage any individual to further research the history of the act and any of the aforementioned principles.

That being said, there you have it. Legislation cannot erase racism from the minds of those who hold it, and in trying to do so, individual rights are diminished.


3 responses to “The Immorality of Racism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  1. Pingback: Yaron Brook on Banning Discrimination | IdeaTransfuser·

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