Thursday, June 24, 2004

Some history of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

In this article on the decline of affirmative action, the following snippet of the history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is retold:

"AA began on June 19, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent a Civil Rights Act (CRA) to Congress to counter racial discrimination in the work place. The CRA, intended primarily for blacks, met stiff political opposition. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. His successor Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed, "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." But opposition was still stiff.

On February 8, 1964, Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia made a colossal miscalculation in the House of Representatives. In an attempt to block the CRA, he suggested inserting the word 'sex' after the word 'religion' whenever it appeared in Title VII, which guaranteed 'fair' employment practices. By tying it to the then controversial women's movement, Smith hoped to kill the CRA.

In his book "Freedom Will Conquer Racism and Sexism", J. Edward Pawlick, comments on reaction in the House."[T]he laughter became too great... and Congressman Smith had to stop." Disingenuously, Smith assured the House that he was serious. The bluff backfired. The CRA passed.

Within decades, government had imposed de facto quotas and fair practice standards for women (and minorities) throughout the work place and academia. That had not been Kennedy's intention."

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