^ basic to what america is all about : President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights act of 1964

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This year America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing into law of the Civil Rights act of 1964. This was a landmark piece of legislation, as basic as can be to what citizenship in America means. The import of this law we quote from Wikipedia :

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations”).

“Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964 at the White House.”

The law had opponents then — chiefest of whom was that year’s Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, whose opposition has cursed the Republican party ever since — and it has opponents now. We reject such opposition root and branch. It is un-Constitutional in the exact sense of the word.

Opposition to the Civil Rights act of 1964 — and to the Civil Rights and Voting rights acts that soon followed — arises from anarchy, from selfishness, from refusal, basically, to be a citizen. The welfare of all is why our predecessors created the Constitution : Its provisions are to be the supreme law of the land, and its protections, as a result of the 14th Amendment, are guaranteed to every person living in every state. The power to enforce those Constitutional guarantees is also granted –and must be. No one living in America can be allowed to deny or compromise the basic civil rights of any other person living here. Those who oppose this oppose the Constitution itself.

No one living in America more loudly talks about supporting the Constitution than those who in fact oppose it — its purposes, its effect, its provisions. These people are deluded at best, liars at worst.

False or misled may they be, their persistence, since the days of slavery, made it necessary to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Acts 90 years after the equally commanding Civil Rights acts of the 1870s were adopted, only to be explained away by Supreme Court decisions that could not accept that Civil rights meant Civil Rights.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court of the 1965-1975 period agreed that Civil rights means Civil rights, nothing less, nothing explained away.

The opponents of Civil rights have never given up. They know that if the Federal government is allowed to guarantee basic rights to everyone, it can guarantee other incidents of equality; and nothing means more to the opponents of civil rights than that people should not be equal; should, indeed, be as unequal as luck, money, and ingenuity can make them.

Opponents of Civil rights laws have, recently, been offered a new battlefield to fight on: civil rights for people of differing sexual orientation or identity. It has pleased the opponents of Constitutional guarantees no end to find that this new ground for objecting to equality actually has supporters, sufficient vin number to have set back the Constitution’s guarantee by a decade and more. Indeed, the new opposition continues to set back constitutional guarantees in over half the states.

This effort will fail. It is failing even as I write. In state after state, Federal courts are overturning laws that violate the civil rights of people whose sexual orientation or identity are objected to by those who cannot bear the thought that all people — yes, all — are equally protected by the Constitution.

But even as, state ay state, the guarantees fundamental to America are enforced and obstacles to them wept aside, let us never forget that those who cannot stand the idea of equality remain enemies to it and will never, ever give up trying to render equality an evil.

The equality of all souls is the most radical social principle ever advanced. But it is ours, as Americans — people of the most radical experiment in social justice ever attempted in human history.

We either enforce civil rights for all vigorously, always, or we fail all of us. From time to time we may relax; or we may declare the fight for civil rights won. But eventually we will return to the fight, as did our grandfathers in 1964, as did their grandfathers of 1870-75, because the fight for equality is never absolutely won .

This is our society’s core mission, and we are proud to accomplish it, no matter how often it need be done.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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