by Robert Wilkinson
It might not seem like a big deal now, but the 1964 Civil Rights Act really was a point in history where the present split from the past creating a new future, and not just in the US.
We all owe Lyndon Johnson a debt of gratitude for honoring John Kennedy's promise that all should have civil rights of a basic nature. Thanks to Wikipedia we find that in 1963 JFK asked Congress for legislation "giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote."
The legislation passed in 1964 outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.
The House of Representatives strengthened the act, adding provisions to ban racial discrimination in employment, providing greater protection to black voters, eliminating segregation in all publicly owned facilities (not just schools), and strengthening the anti-segregation clauses regarding public facilities such as lunch counters. It also included the ability of the Feds to bust those who broke this law, and so it actually had some teeth.
Then it hit the Senate, where the Dixiecrats filibustered it to where it had to be watered down. This was back when a Senator actually had to take the floor and stand for as long as they wished to filibuster. It's different today, when all they have to do is say they intend to, and everyone caves. Visitors from other countries take note, since this is what is jamming our government's gears at present and makes the US look like it cannot govern itself.
Anyway, Hubert Humphrey actually got 67 votes needed to cut off the Dixiecrats' filibustering, remarkable because "Never in history had the Senate been able to muster enough votes to cut off a filibuster on a civil rights bill. And only once in the 37 years since 1927 had it agreed to cloture for any measure."(Wikipedia).
This legislation kicked open the doors for women's rights, opened equal access to voter registration to all, prohibited discrimination based in "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," desegregated public facilities, ended denial of access to public facilities by minorities, and encouraged further desegregation of public schools. You can see how this set the patterns that have evolved into our current social norms (despite some retrograde racists and authoritarians wishing we could put this particular djinn back in the bottle!)
So let's give a big send up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without that, women and racial minorities would have few rights in the US. And of course, this set the standard for the rights claimed by many other nations' women and minorities in their struggle for equality these past 50 years.
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson