Blight, the Yale historian, is hardly unique in his misrepresentation of the classical liberal tradition.
Marshall, the biopic of the illustrious and path-breaking civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall, is an important reminder about just how deep-seated racism and prejudice were in American society (and some say still are). Well acted and evenly paced, the film is a worthy addition to a growing list of good films depicting layered aspects…
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Throughout American history, government at all levels has used race to categorize, enslave, segregate, regulate human behavior, and limit immigration with “nationality” quotas that served as substitutes for race. Categorizing by race was essential to racist agendas.
In response, classical liberal civil rights activists struggled to eliminate government-mandated racial categories. They were anything but naive: racism was real, categories or no categories, but the government stamp of approval made things worse–and caused constant mischief in the ever increasing addition of group categories in the census or in immigration statutes. The only feasible solution was the most radical one: the complete elimination of government racial categories. Individuals might discriminate but would no longer have the support of the State. With time, classical liberals felt, the irrationality of racism and xenophobia would give way to better human relations.
Fifty years ago today (July 23, 1967), the largest urban riot of the 1960s rocked Detroit for five days (July 23-28). An encounter with the police (shutting down an illegal after-hours bar), sparked looting and arson on a scale far surpassing the riots that had burned in other American cities. While such riots often started with incidents involving law enforcement, the police were ordered—again and again—to stand down and let a small minority of African Americans loot property of small business owners (both black and white).
The Detroit Riot marked a turning point in how American policymakers dealt with race. The classical liberal tradition of civil rights, with its emphasis on rule of law and equal protection (regardless of race) gave way to policies that purposely treated minorities as “protected categories” deserving of treatment not accorded other citizens.
Advocates of reparations for the descendants of African American slaves recently challenged socialist Bernie Sanders to embrace their cause, which he refused to do. A leading advocate of reparations, Atlantic contributor Ta-Nehisi Coates, criticizes Sanders for placing class-based politics before race. Lost in the unending debate over reparations is a key point: group reparations ignore the…
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Sixty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man and was arrested for disobeying Montgomery, Alabama’s segregation ordinance. The story is well-known, even today, as we celebrate “Rosa Parks Day” (December 1). Following her arrest, African Americans organized a boycott of the city’s privately-owned bus company. Martin Luther King, Jr. became spokesman for street protests and, ever since, the civil rights movement is remembered as a militant expression of civil disobedience and “taking it to the streets.” Within a year, the city ended desegregation, but not for the reasons you might think. The real heroes behind Rosa Parks were the NAACP lawyers who battered down the walls of institutional racism with the force of the constitution, color-blind law, and capitalist forces that worked against racism—hallmarks of the classic liberal tradition of civil rights.
Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Independent Review on the urban riots of the 1960s (and the Rodney King riot of 1992). Watching the events unfold in Ferguson, it seems those in charge of riot control learned nothing. Once again, the victims were small business owners—many of them African Americans (as…
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The Civil Rights Act was not a perfect law—no law is perfect–but it did embody two principles of the long civil rights movement: First, the individual (not the group) is the measure of justice. Secondly, nondiscrimination is mandatory for the government and worth pursuing in our private lives. If policymakers had enforced the Civil Rights Act in good faith, time might have eroded the tendency to view others as members of a group, rather than as individuals.
I had a glimmer of hope for the 2013 film The Lone Ranger when I read that young U.S. attorney John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger, arrives in untamed west Texas with a copy of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. After watching the otherwise entertaining summer action film, I left the theater wondering…
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In my capacity as chair of the Alabama State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights I am featured today in two Fox stories (print and television). Our committee has been investigating eminent domain as a civil rights issue. The stories describe how “eminent domain through the back door” has become commonplace…
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