Tuesday, February 22, 2011

1964 Civil Rights Bill vs. 1965 Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

. What I mean by asserting that structural racism is not recognized in American political discourse is that only the symptoms of racism are treated, and poorly at best. At the same time, the system is reproducing the power inequalities already inherent in it. To highlight this, read over and compare the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the UN resolution for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965. There seem to be some misconceptions about the civil rights bill's effective strength.

First, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 DID NOT:

- Title 1 did NOT outlaw literacy tests and other forms of qualification for voters to vote (even though this was the main focus of the bill). Instead, it required "equal" testing of all voters who turned up at the polls. This changed the American "right" to vote into another Jim Crow regulated system LEGALLY.

- Title 2 did NOT outlaw discrimination in "private" establishments, only in public places such as parks, theatres, and hotels. So one could construe this as saying "sure, we can look equal" when in reality most establishments are not public and could continue to restrict services at their discretion.

- Title 3 did NOT do anything to aid desegregation of public schools, which were officially desegregated in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education - but, because whites and blacks lived in such radically segregated areas, it in effect did nothing for those people who did not have the means to commute to a new (and sometimes hostile) school further away. This is because school busing was still reserved primarily for students who lived, you guessed it, in the "right" neighborhoods.

- Title IV did NOT force the government to withdraw funds from federally funded bodies which still practiced discrimination. Instead, it merely "authorized" the government to do so. Again, here is a huge loophole which magically made its way into what should have been a plain black and white text bill that denounced discrimination.

- Title V did NOT end racial hiring biases in all businesses. Only businesses which are over 25 people are even targeted by this provision. Now some may consider this to be plenty of businesses, but think about the aim of this bill. Is it to give equal rights to those who "wish to work in businesses with 26 or more people?" That is ludicrous.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was established in 1965. The Convention's definition of racial discrimination is:

"...Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

The United States government refused to ratify this (it was not ratified by the U.S. until the 1990's). If this doesn't stir some questions about the truth in American political discourse, then nothing will. The stark contrast between the farce of racial equity espoused in our laws and the real, blatant facts of it is stupefying.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really great follow-up to your last post. Racism on an overt discursive level is no longer tolerated; but rather its strength exists in structural loopholes which could appear to be bad policy or simple oversights. The problem is that when enmeshed into out complex system of legal statutes and procedures, it is harder to identify one particular culprit or responsible party.

    One could argues that policies like the examples you put above are not deliberate, but if racial inequalities continue to exist as a result of institutional forces, then not taking action to remedy them is itself a deliberate act.

    Frederickson's Racism: A Short History which we will discuss tomorrow introduces a fascinating paradox which I think could be interesting to you: why is it that the most overt forms of racism came about only when human equality was accepted as one of the fundamental Western democratic values? I suppose in the same way, how does the assumption of post-racialism allow a new mutations of racism to exist in our nation and across the globe?


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