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Why the 1964 Civil Rights Act has been terrible for America!

To get Democrats to vote for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans stood on the floor of congress swearing that the act would not mandate racial quotas or so-called “affirmative action.” However, almost immediately after the bill was passed, it was used to create the Soviet Style EEOC. This grossly unconstitutional federal agency, staffed by the far-left, uses financial terrorism to force affirmative action and racial quotas on companies.

The article by Lawrence Auster was originally published in the Citizens’ Informer newspaper.

How the 1964 Civil Rights Act
Made Racial Group Entitlements Inevitable

by Lawrence Auster

Through half a lifetime of observing American conservatives–and neoconservatives–passionate and principled resistance to affirmative action (a resistance that notably waned after the 2003 Grutter decision), I many times heard them quote Hubert Humphrey’s famous pledge that if the 1964 Civil Rights Act required racial quotas, he would “eat the paper it’s written on.” Recently I looked up the text of Humphrey’s remark, which he made on the floor of the U.S. Senate on April 9, 1964:

If the Senator can find in Title VII … any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there.

I was struck by these words because, being familiar only with paraphrases of Humphrey’s quote, I had always assumed that he had said something like: “If this bill brings about quotas, I will eat it.” But now I realized that he had said: “If this bill contains language mandating quotas, I will eat it.”

This changed the entire significance of the remark. Of course the bill did not contain language mandating racial quotas. In fact, it contained the very opposite: an amendment declaring that the bill could not be interpreted as requiring racial quotas. So Humphrey’s assurance, upon which conservatives in later decades have placed such weight, was meaningless. The question was not whether the bill required quotas. The question was whether, regardless of any anti-quota provisions the bill might contain, it would lead to quotas. And, of course, it did–and far faster than its critics had anticipated. Immediately after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal enforcement agency created by the Act, declared that the failure of an employer to have the same percentage of blacks in his workforce as existed in the general population was prima facie proof of racial discrimination under the Act. As a result of this regulatory fiat, the only way an employer could prove he wasn’t racially discriminating was to engage in racially proportional hiring. The era of racial preferences had begun. Yet Senator–and soon to be Vice President–Humphrey never ate the paper the 1964 Act was written on, nor was he obliged to, because his claim had been correct, if in a strictly narrow sense: the bill did not contain explicit language that mandated quotas. What the bill did was to create a federal agency that had the power to carry forward the bill’s real, though unstated, purpose.

What was this purpose? Contrary to neoconservatives’ dreamy thoughts on the subject, the true aim of the civil rights movement, of which the 1964 Act was the crowning achievement, was not to attain a universal, race-blind equality of rights for all persons. It was to advance the condition of black people, by any means that would work. Many leading civil rights leaders in the 1940s and 1950s, far from being liberals who believed in America’s essential goodness, were leftists. They saw America as an incurably racist society that would have to be manipulated and coerced into treating blacks decently. Mere equality of rights, they felt, could never overcome whites’ entrenched anti-black prejudices or the black inferiority that the left thought resulted solely from such prejudices. The civil rights movement therefore sought equal justice under the law for blacks, an ideal that mainstream whites would accept. But equal justice was only a step toward the real goal, which was, in President Johnson’s words, equality as a fact and equality as a result. The proof of this observation is that as soon as the principle of equal rights had taken blacks as far as it could take them (with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year), the civil rights movement abandoned equal rights as its defining ideal and replaced it with racial equality of outcome.

In saying this, I am not accusing leaders such as Martin Luther King of insincerity. I do not know what King’s real thoughts were during the earlier, legal-equality phase of the civil rights movement, and it doesn’t much matter what they were in any case. My point is that the civil rights movement, regardless of what its leaders–and followers–conscious purposes may have been prior to 1964, had an inherent tendency toward egalitarianism of result, and that once this tendency kicked in, those who belonged to the movement would support it one way or another, as, of course, happened with King himself.

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