This essay will examine the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a policy document used in the integration of Americans of all races into the economic, and social aspects of the United States development agenda. It will analyze how the law helped federal government, state agencies, and civil rights activists put to end racial, gender, sex, or nation of origin discrimination. The essay will highlight the history of its implementation, its public policy prescription, the effects and limitations of the Act, and marketplace failures against the government failures. Additionally, the essay will analyze the Act’s implementation, its impact on businesses and society, how the Act has worked so far, its strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations on areas for policy improvement in the future.
History of the Act – why was the law necessary
Immediately after the civil war, amendment 13 abolished slavery; it was followed by amendment 14 which formerly made all enslaved people, to be citizens of the United States. Shortly after, amendment 15 of the federal constitution gave all men irrespective of their race voting rights (History, 2021). However, many states mostly those in the South still used poll taxes, and literacy tests to discriminate against minority groups especially African Americans.
They still encouraged segregation, and violence against Americans of color. During this period in time and many decades before, the U.S. did not have even a single civil rights law in place. In 1957, Congress formed a civil rights section of the justice department and a commission on civil rights to look into the state of discrimination in America (History, 2021). Then in 1960, Congress decided to correct this by appointing a court referee to assist citizens of color to register to vote but the bills were weakened due to strong opposition from the South.
The activities at the Congress only strengthened the resolve of the protesters who increased the intensity of their disobedience in the South where several casualties were witnessed in Birmingham and Alabama. This made President John F. Kennedy act to in 1963 by proposing radical civil rights legislation which changed the United States for good (History, 2021). Finally, the legislation was enacted in 1964, and its contents among other things, prohibited segregation in public places and banned discrimination on the foundation of race, color, religion, sex, or nation of origin. To date, it is regarded as the best legislation born out of the civil rights movement.
Public policy prescription
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government through agencies enforcing the law, the power to stop racial discrimination in employment, voting, and the use of public facilities. It gave the government the instruments to declare several things illegal and prosecutable in any court of law. The Act defined how the American people should relate and coexist despite the racial divide and tensions which existed between the white majority and the minority people of color. It opened up education for the minority groups by prohibiting the Congress from cutting off federal aid to schools that were segregated.
The act allowed people of color to freely mingle with others in hotels, motels, restaurants, and all other public places of accommodation. It also stopped discrimination and biases on all government-funded programs by allowing all Americans to get services from the government irrespective of their race. This law defined the relationship between the government, private sections, and the public because it applied to the government and its agencies, public schools, employers, and all private organizations that received federal funds.
Effects and Limits of Civil Rights Law
Civil rights laws have made critical gains for impartial treatment for all races in many areas of the United States. They have not, however, managed to even the playing field of opportunities. Racism which was used to justify and necessitate slavery is still very strong in the United States today. It mutated into systematic racism whereby discrimination against people of color is hidden in laws, regulations, and social arrangements (Sandroff, 2021).
These regulations ensure that the people of color are kept in poverty while chances for the white majority are boosted. Further housing discrimination has pushed many to live in poor condition, and in areas where crime rates are high. Racially instigated police brutality is widespread in many states, and they have ended up killing, arresting, and sentencing many African Americans. Most public schools and civil projects in areas dominated by the poor and minority groups are still underfunded. In addition, many Blacks still don’t get equal access to job opportunities and healthcare services. To date, poverty, unemployment, voting rights, health provision, and quality education remain the biggest challenge for the minority races.
The economic opportunities for minorities especially African American is still low. Poor housing, poverty among people of color, lack of proper integration of African American children into public schools are all limitations which the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not solve. It also failed to solve discrimination based on sex which was missing on the first legislation and was only added as an amendment in Title VII. In what was seen as an attempt to scuttle the passage of the law. It is also limited in the sense that, it has no provisions which can stop codifying segregation and discrimination intentions in the process of making new laws.
Market failure or Government Failure
The federal government of the United States tries much it can to safeguard the rights of minorities and to ensure their full participation in the country’s economic growth. There are several sections of the law that gives the government the teeth and muscle to flex against those who violate the rights of minorities. For example, section 2 (a) of the Lanham Act authorizes the government to withhold certain commercial benefits in its trademark registration program by canceling the federal registration of brands or companies that are racially disparaging. However, this legislation is handicapped in the sense that it does not prevent the creation or use of racially disparaging trademarks.
Companies and organizations still violet this regulation by using offensive trademarks which are racially provocative and discriminatory against people of color. A clear demonstration of the weakness in the law which the government has failed to correct; to cure the mishaps which those bent on continuing with discrimination in other forms capitalize on.
Another case in point is the ‘Title II of The Civil Rights Act of 1964’. It gives express authority to the federal government to interfere with private businesses that engage in conduct that may block some people from getting entertained at public places on the basis of race. Despite those express provisions, some refreshment joints still provide separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites which totally convey the message of racial discrimination.
This goes on in so many business places across the U.S (Chang, 2016), and yet the government act oblivious to it and culprits go unpunished. The strength and taste of discrimination are still very strong such that in some cases, employees, employers, business owners, and customers prefer certain groups of people over others based on race. This happens despite The Civil Rights Act of 1964 having provisions requiring the government to address the market failures, by invoking the constitutionality of government intervention in the market.
A clear example of market failure is the use of racist trademarks by the Washington football team. For many years, this team has called itself by a racial slur, and it has done so with the full knowledge of the federal government, which recognized the team’s name as a federally registered trademark. The team’s use of its logo is so prevalent that the slur gets discussed on primetime television, even on the same media that would not tolerate the use of other racial slanders. Interestingly, the football team itself penalizes as not sportsmanship conduct, the use of certain racially derogatory language on the field (Chang, 2016), yet it tolerates the R-skins slander. The federal government must do more to stamp out and regulate business because it has the ability, and its laxity and failure will strengthen racially disparaging logos that can lead to a return to segregation.
The implementation of the civil rights act of 1964 experienced some resistance immediately after its enactment. Segregationists opposed it even after it was adopted by Congress, for instance, Mr. George Wallace governor of Alabama during his presidential campaigns in 1964, relied on anti-inclusivity ideology and criticized the loss of American values. Though the Act introduced the provisions which strengthened the voting rights of African Americans, it was still weak in many areas. Many election officials in several states took advantage of its weaknesses and continued to deny the blacks their voting rights (EPA, 2020). Civil rights groups who tried to push for expanded black voter registration were also met with stiff opposition and hostility from Southern white segregationists who were enjoying power then.
Many civil rights activists were not sold to the idea of nonviolent, integrationist strategies because of violence, beatings, and murders of many of their workers after the passage of the Act. They decided to adopt more radical strategies to protest the continued violations of African Americans’ rights. This strategy galvanized their activities across the country and demanded federal government intervention (EPA, 2020). It prompted the executive through President Johnson to propose additional legislation on voting rights to the congress, which was adopted by the congress and signed as the voting rights Act of 1965. From here onwards minority groups have continued to enjoy equality in voting and have recently become a key swing vote for candidates in several states.
Another important and significant section of the Act of 1964 is relating to the use of federal funds by its agencies. The Title VI of the Act requires every agency of the federal government involved with providing financial assistance to citizens. To eradicate any form of discrimination on basis of race, color, and nation of origin in these programs (National Archives, 2018). It is a powerful clause which any well-meaning President could use to force government agencies to discard discrimination or risk losing funding. It can also be used as an economic sanction by the federal government against any state still bent on segregation against minority groups.
Further Title VII of the Act forces the federal government to illegalize discrimination against job applicants or employees due to their race, color, and religion. It also prohibits unfairness due to someone’s sex, national origin, age, and disability. This protection applies to all types of work situations including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
Subsequent Presidents of the United States have all weighed in through executive orders to enforce affirmative actions to ensure that private businesses, organizations, and companies do treat African Americans equally when recruiting staff. For example, in 1969, an executive order was issued requiring that all levels of federal service must give equal opportunities to women (National Archives, 2018). Secondly, President Nixon’s department of labor adopted a policy that forced all federal contractors to evaluate their employees with the view to identify race and gender gaps.
This order specifically pushed for an end to the under-representation of women and people of color in employment. By around 1990, different U.S. administrations ‘had taken very many steps and actions that gave birth to 160 affirmative federal programs; different states and local governments were also expected to follow in the same line. Despite the immense contributions the federal governments of the U.S. have made in the past to realize a more just and inclusive citizenry, a lot still needs to be done. The civil rights Act of 1964 and subsequent amendment has not fulfilled all of the objectives of the rights activists, more legislative actions are still required to guarantee all the rights to minorities.
Impact on business and society
The Title VII of the Act banned discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, and nation of origin. This section of the law changed the mind-set of very many Americans and made people realize the importance of fairness to all. It made people come to terms with the fact that it is unjust to use race, sex, or gender to deny some people employment opportunities (Library of Congress, 2016).
It was boosted further when Congress expanded workplace protections to include citizens with disabilities and the elderly. Additionally, the successive lawsuits have also helped define workplace protections, forcing companies to change unfair policies, practices, and give equal chances to all Americans. It set out the culture of diversity which is now a common phenomenon among almost all American firms, businesses, and organizations.
Currently, the diverse nature of American society means that those employers who discriminate would miss out on a big pool of skills they require in their businesses. They realize that the more diverse the workplace is when they are making decisions, the better deliberations and decisions (Library of Congress, 2016). Through research and several trials, many businesses have realized that a diverse pool of employees helps them understand their customers better. The minority groups’ population has over the years increased significantly, and currently stands at around 37% compared to less than 17% in the 1970s, based on the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.
This is not a population anyone can ignore in terms of customer base. Today diversity at the workplace in American is a financial issue, companies that embrace diversity and inclusivity in their business models like employing people from different cultures reap benefits (Mckay, 2020). Businesses are now forced to even incorporate diversity and inclusivity in their marketing strategies, communications, customer care services, and brand packaging.
Firms now look into what would be considered non-issues like fairness in promotions at workplaces. Compared to when Title VII was passed where many cases were just about people not being employed due to either their race, gender, or other characteristics (Mckay, 2020). The focus is now on fair and equal promotions to all irrespective of racial or cultural diversity. For example in the last 15 years, cases involving pay and promotions have increased from 15% to about 35%. Meaning the nature of discrimination has changed where racial biases have replaced overt discrimination. This new form of discrimination happens, despite the law-making any form of discrimination that is not intentional but has a discriminatory impact illegal. This new dimension even calls for a review of the Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments to tighten the gaps more.
Theory about Civil Rights Act of 1964
Critical race theory is a method used to integrate the role of race and racism in a diverse society. It critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalization of racism elevates systems that reduce people of color to the bottom section of society. It looks at how race mixes and infuses with other identities like sex, gender, religion, and nation of origin. Critical theory also acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on African Americans and other minority people of color continues to undermine the social fabric of the United States.
The segregationists, those who have refused to accept the reality of the diverse demography of America and those bent on entrenching discrimination, now hide behind the law to push their agenda. They now codify racism into the law and regulations governing the United States and other organizations. They still believe that people of color are intellectually and morally inferior, and do not deserve the attention and the opportunities accorded to them through the civil rights act of 1964. Every election period these racists though a few, find their way into Congress and try to codify their racial views into the United States policy documents and legal systems.
Through the study of law and U.S. history, the theory attempts to reveal how racial oppression shaped the legal fabric of the U.S. Critical race theory is traditionally less concerned with how racism manifests itself in interactions with individuals and more concerned with how racism has been, and is, codified into the law (Gray, 2021). For example, the “Three-Fifths Compromise” in the constitution that denied the slaves voting rights, still treated them as part of the population in some states for purpose of increasing congressional representation. Lastly, the pervasiveness of racism in the United States legal system and institutions means racism is part of life in America.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments including new legislations which tightened the gaps created the modern United States of America. It helped finish the work which necessitated civil war in America 100 years before 1964. To a large measure, the Act tried to create a more equal and just America and reduced excessive discrimination witnessed before its enactment (Purdum, 2015). It cured the racial divide in a country where African Americans could not eat together in hotels and restaurants. School infrastructure and education systems in America were revolutionized such that children of color began getting educated because desegregation in public schools was outlawed.
The Impact of the Law
Despite much opposition from segregationists and racial discrimination mostly by the white majority, and in the light of new forms of discrimination like codifying the vice into laws and legal systems. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ushered in a new era in the United States never witnessed before in which citizens who feel their rights are violated could seek legal redress in courts. It opened up the United States democracy through equal participation in elections by all Americans; Americans of color are not only voting but also seek to be elected into offices today (Sandroff, 2021). The Act also paved the way for many affirmative action programs which targeted the poor minorities to help raise their living standards levels.
Further, it secured African Americans and other minority communities of color equal access to restaurants, transportation, and other public facilities. It enabled blacks, women, and other minorities to break down barriers in the workplaces and other job opportunities in the United States of America. The expanded version of the Act outlawed discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and housing financing based on race, religion, the nation of origin, offered protection for people with disabilities and families with children.
Strengths of Civil Rights Act of 964
One of the greatest strengths of the Rights Act of 1964 is that it led to strong and greater social and economic mobility for minorities in the United States. It also provided huge resources and opportunities for women, religious minorities, and those families living on low income per day. It opened up the modern American democracy by allowing people of color the right to vote (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2019).
The Act also offered people of color protection from discrimination when looking for or paying for house rents and also gave express cover to all Americans with disabilities. The national commitment to Civil Rights Act stirred the efforts to integrate schools which were not happening before and gave room for equity in education (Menand, 2020). Schools and institutions of higher learning were forced to review and improve their admission policies to incorporate racial inclusivity and diversity.
Weaknesses of Civil Rights Act of 1964
Disparities in education still exist, for example, data released in 1916 by the U.S. Department of education shows gaps in public schools across America. The report revealed that African Americans are 3.8 times likely to get one or more suspensions from schools compared to their white counterparts in the same grade (Vox, 2020). Female students of color according to the report are 6 times likely to get suspended from schools than white female students. The findings also indicated disproportionate rates of suspensions for students with disabilities. Harsh disciplinary which is racially inclined pushed African American and Latino students out of schools into the criminal justice system called the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
A number of studies show that employment decisions in the United States are continuously being made upon racially inclined lines. In many instances recruitment seem to favor applicants with white-sounding names than those with black-sounding names. It points to a systematic and coded way of continuation of discrimination (Yerardi and Jameel, 2019). The Act has not cured the wealth difference between the whites and American minorities, for example in 2010 the average black family had about $16000 in wealth compared to $130000 for an average white family. Even when you compare income levels for average families, the income scope of white families is about 3 times wealthier than black families, and the disparities is the same up and below the ladder.
Recommendations for future policy makers
In the future, the policymakers need to review the Act particularly the sections which give the federal government express authority to interfere with private businesses who engage in racial discrimination conducts. There is a need to amend these sections to outlaw or ban the use of racially inclined symbols or phrases as private companies’ logos. The policymakers should in the future look into ways of outlawing or making it illegal to codify racial discrimination into American laws and other policy documents. The government can achieve this by putting a team of legal experts whose role is to analyze legislations properly for any racially codified sections before they signed into law.
There are also weaknesses in terms of how companies recruit their employees, in that some companies silently use names of applicants to either employ or reject their applications. In the future policymakers need to cure this trend by creating provisions in the Civil Rights Act which allow job applicants who feel discriminated against to seek redress from the government.
There is still a big gap in terms of wealth creation between the white majority and the minority groups despite the affirmative actions and programs by the federal government. To cure this, the federal government must strengthen affirmative action through policy intervention by creating a restorative justice fund for minority groups. This can be done in the form of grants for them to have the capital to venture into businesses. Likewise, in the future, there should be a mechanism that can be used to stop selective discrimination where some employers or businesses still choose or prefer to associate with certain categories of races but not others.
Racial division is still common in schools and other higher learning institutions, the federal and states governments together with communities should remodify educational policies to strengthen rights to quality education for all American children. Historically marginalized children of color should be given equalization funds for higher education to help them bridge the gap and get educational equity.
Lastly, The Civil Rights Act needs redesigning to introduce punitive measures against law enforcers like police officers who in their daily duties instigate racially inclined violence against African Americans. This form of racial discrimination is on the rise in America today and is likely to be the cause of a new wave of civil rights activism if not contained through policy intervention. Many police men and women from the white majority are still stuck with old mind-sets, they need retraining on racial equality.
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