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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Rand Paul Criticizes Civil Rights Act, Argues Businesses Should Be Able to Discriminate

By May 24, 2010

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forever changed American society. It literally opened up doors previously closed to racial minorities. But during a recent appearance on the "Rachel Maddow Show," Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul questioned whether the government should have made it a crime for private businesses to racially discriminate against customers, such as when restaurants refused to serve black patrons who organized sit-ins at lunch counters in protest. He argued that by including this component (Title II) in the Civil Rights Act, the federal government infringed on the rights of private property owners.

"Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?" Paul remarked during his interview with Maddow.  He went on to say that, had he been in office when the Civil Rights Act came under debate, he would have tried to change it because it undermines the first amendment rights of property owners. He also compared the federal government ordering business owners not to racially discriminate to the government telling business owners not to refuse service to patrons armed with guns.

"Then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'Well no, we don't want to have guns in here...because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each other,'" he said.

Since Paul made his remarks, he's come under intense fire. After all, had the federal government not prohibited private businesses from refusing service to customers based on race, racial segregation in the public sphere would have flourished, not faded. If there was a time for the government to step on the toes of property owners, certainly the 1960s qualified.  

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who is African American, defended Paul on ABC's "This Week" but stopped short of supporting his statements and refused to answer when asked if he felt comfortable with Paul's words. Steele simply argued that Paul's perspective on civil rights reflected a "philosophical position...held by a lot of libertarians, which Rand Paul is. They have a very, very strong view about the limitations of government intrusion into the private sector."

Steele said it was up to the people of Kentucky to decide whether they could support a candidate with such views. For the record, Paul has since tried to clarify the statements he made during the Maddow interview, explaining that he believes, "we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person. I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation. ...I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Despite such clarifications, Paul still seems to believe that the government overstepped its bounds when it ordered private businesses not to racially discriminate against patrons. He not only noted that the Civil Rights Act was debated on constitutional grounds when introduced but also criticized the "intrusive" actions of the federal government today.

"This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs," he said. "Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes... The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state's rights must stand up to it."

But in a democratic nation which acknowledges that all men are created equal, individual and state's rights should not include the right to discriminate based on race. Moreover, activist group Color of Change argues that Title II of the Civil Rights Act didn't help to prevent discrimination solely in the 1960s.

"Recent history has shown that the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act is still needed," the group noted. "In 1994, it was used to hold Denny's Restaurants accountable, after the chain repeatedly refused to seat black customers. Just last year, it was used to go after a Philadelphia pool that prevented black children from swimming there."

Given this, Paul's comments about the Civil Rights Act are all the more irresponsible.


May 24, 2010 at 8:02 am
(1) E says:

Wait he only said he would word it differently? Thanks for posting this, now I feel much better about Paul. The way the news cycle is talking you’d swear he was ready to repeal it and force people into slavery. Thanks for clarifying that! Rand Paul 2012!!!

May 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm
(2) BCW says:

If he thinks it should be reworded, then he is opening the door for it to be repealed. Rand Paul is clearly a segragationist. Martin Luther King, and thousands of others did not give their lives for the civil rights act to be repealed. Lets not forget reconstruction ended in the same way and Jim Crow was the result. Rand Paul revealed he is a wolf in sheeps clothing, he is not a libratarian, he is a NEOCON. If he quacks like a duck then he is a duck, a segragationist duck. SAY NO to Rand Paul!!!!

May 31, 2010 at 4:08 am
(3) benrush says:

Much ado about nothing. Racism would not “flourish” if the federal government minded their own business. Government exists to protect our inalienable rights, not to infringe upon them. We are freemen and freewomen, and we are all adults. If some people think they have a right to YOUR restaurant, that is clearly a perversion of the concept of rights. Of course racism is wrong, but so is forced servitude. Isn’t that what minorities fear? Then why impose it upon others ? What would be wrong of course, is to deny someone access to public facilities because of color.

June 1, 2010 at 8:09 am
(4) Silent-Wolf says:

When businesses support racism and white supremacy blatantly or tacitly as they did prior to the Civil Rights Act (especially in public accommodation) then the government has an obligation to step in and force them to serve all of the public. Even today we still find many businesses that discriminate by practicing micro-aggression, i.e. ignoring black patrons, approaching black patrons in a condescending or demeaning manner, demanding payment before service, etc. How can people claim to be in business and still want to refuse service to someone solely on account of race and/or ethnicity? Mr. Rand Paul’s comments further demonstrate that their are those who want to recreate a blatantly racist America.

June 10, 2010 at 6:11 am
(5) Roy says:

I believe as Paul does! The patron’s make or break a business. The patron’s have different views now. And I believe a white business would not survive,if he refused service to a black. However I am not so sure as if the shoe was on the other foot. As anyone can tell in this day and time, racisum is called by blacks,more so than ever before. I am not so sure our black brothers, would stand up for the white brother as we have for them. I see rascisum more so from the blacks, than ever before. I would say to this black writer,take a look around at your race, but I am quite sure she knows this. The story sells better to BOTH RACES like this.

December 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm
(6) Greg says:

Nobody every complains when the government forces someone else to respect their “rights”. Funny though how loudly those same people scream and holler when they are forced to respect someone else’s rights.
You can’t have it both ways. People have to learn to get along on their own. You can’t force the issue. All it does is cause more animosity. Most people today are increasingly race tolerant. I believe that people are increasingly tolerant of many other differences also, such as religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. Every time the government tries to mandate how we behave, they are fanning the flames of an otherwise dying fire.
It’s something like the old saying – you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. He has to be left alone and then he’ll drink on his own soon enough. All creatures, both animals and humans, resent having their freedoms and rights taken away.

The real problem may be that those who are fanning these flames are doing it to further their own agenda, and could care less about whose rights or freedoms are being trampled in the process.

December 18, 2010 at 7:37 pm
(7) Jack Frost says:

Rand Paul, and his father Ron, are both long-time Neo-Confederates. There’s plenty of evidence to support this, and it’s just sad that people are so swept up in the movement to even question the man’s motives and background.

August 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm
(8) Jan says:

Silly me. I thought racism was dead……………….

August 26, 2013 at 12:02 am
(9) KB says:

Let’s get just one thing straight, those who believe that the government has had no effect on racism in America, it’s the opposite. I can’t think of one civil or human right that the South has ever honored for anyone except Christian whites, ever, without being forced into it. We are talking about a place where segregated proms still take place. There is a huge contingent that would love to re-segregate the South. To deny that, is to be a white person, living in a white world that has no clue what minorities deal with on a daily basis. We shrug it off as if they are overly sensitive, but listen to some of you get so upset that a white person could be forced to do anything and you’re all upset. Where is any of that outrage for what happens to minorities on a day to day to day basis? You want sympathy for not having the right to do openly, what’s being done everyday anyway, without anyone giving it a thought. I am sickened by the treatment that minorities accept as a completely normal part of day to day life, and then listen to hypocritical nasty white people complain because they can’t openly be oppressive to someone else, it’s shameful.

August 26, 2013 at 2:24 am
(10) Scott Jones says:

First of all it would have been nice if Mr. Paul would have answered Rachel’s question. And second the federal government got involved in desegregating restaurants because they were national chains. Woolworth’s, Walgreen’s, Howard Johnson’s where the battles were fought were in the south. But they were a reflection of their national chains. It’s funny that people tend to not really think and look at the entire story when it comes to things like this. Rand Paul probably has a white hood stashed in his closet.

August 26, 2013 at 6:29 am
(11) J.R. says:

If a restaurant can refuse to serve you based on the color of your skin (or whatever other criteria the owner deems appropriate), Can then a hospital refuse to treat you for whatever arbitrary reason they choose? Can a bank deny you credit or financing for the same reasons?
Could entire communities establish such discriminatory practices?
Jim Crow laws were over turned and the civil rights act was established for very serious and legitimate reasons. Rand Paul and his Libertarian friends are dangerously mistaken if they believe that those old and hateful attitudes would not return. Or, perhaps that is their intention.
Furthermore, there is a Libertarian party that exists independently of the Republican party. I think the RNC would be well served to purge it’s ranks of these radicle extremists and send them to join their own party.

August 26, 2013 at 11:06 am
(12) Will Tyler says:

I’m not sure how I feel about this. At first I was knocked back but then thinking about it, maybe he’s right. I’m a white person and I see minorities grouping with others. They don’t mingle with races unless they’re black men and white women. When I’m walking down the street and see a gang of black guys I get nervous because what if they’re racists? They’re not hanging around with white guys and Latinos and Asians. They’re hanging with people of the same race. What if they hate me just because I’m white? That’s not a racial statement on my part. That’s a valid observation leading to a valid concern. If minorities want to end racism then they need to stop self-segregating themselves.

August 26, 2013 at 11:54 am
(13) Curbrunner says:

Wannabe anarchists like Paul Rand are gonna have to learn to live with the same laws as everybody else… Rand’s question is bogus and misplaced –
“Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?”…It’s not a matter of the government “owning” anyone’s restaurant in the first place. By the time you’re operating the restaurant you’re already doing so because you’ve accepted government regulations that apply such as building codes, heath codes, business permits, etc. that are required to open & run a restaurant and serve the public. Civil rights laws that apply to eating establishments are part of doing business also. Nobody gets to pick and choose which laws they want to obey is this instance or any other circumstance and YOU still get to own your business…

November 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm
(14) fognog2 says:

This is supposed to be a free country. In a free country you should be able to discriminate. You are also free not to do business with people who discriminate. Businesses are private property. Private property is essential to freedom.

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