Civil Rights Act of 1964 enforced the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by ensuring a legislative act that would prevent discrimination and extend equal protection under the law. The bill in its entirety protects all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national background, and gender. It was and still is considered to be a landmark bill, in spite of the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment already technically guarantees equal protection to all citizens of the United States. However, practice and theory are different beasts. President Johnson understood this, and foresaw the need to push forward legislation that would create a more perfect union offering liberty and justice to all people.
The Civil Rights Act was surprisingly controversial, in a nation that prided itself on its values of equality and freedom. It took centuries for females and non-whites to have voting privileges in the United States. The battle for true equality was long and hard fought. Civil rights bills had been passed and ignored since the end of the Civil War; but Reconstruction had been thoroughly deconstructed by racist lawmakers. In 1943, an attempt at civil rights law was made in Congress but failed to pass in the Senate. Congress continued trying to pass a civil rights bill, but committee after committee shot them down. There were simply too many bigoted lawmakers in Washington, and equal protection remained a dream.
Finally, the election of John F. Kennedy to the office of Presidency coincided with the deep and radical changes taking place in American society. Values, norms, and beliefs shifted with the youth and counterculture movements throughout the United States and Western Europe. The hypocrisy of injustice in all its forms, including racism and sexism became less tolerated and less normative. By 1963, the American people and its lawmakers were finally ready for a real push forward and genuine social progress. Martin Luther King, Jr. And other African-American activists were aligned with the cause of women too.
In 1963, amid increasing pressure from the American people, President Kennedy helped to draft the Civil Rights Act. Even the changing tide of the times could not deter the bigots in Washington to embrace the constitutional rights of non-white citizens and females. It took nearly a year for Congress to concede, and unfortunately it also took the assassination of President Kennedy to encourage lawmakers to take the great leap forward that they did in 1964, when the Civil Rights Bill was finally passed on February 10.
One of the most important provisions of the Civil Rights Act is Title VII, which makes it unlawful for any employer to engage in discriminatory practices defined, in part, as follows:
1. To fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
2. To limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
(Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964)
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers employment agencies, labor unions, training programs, national security, and host of other potential applications of the law. Moreover, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 introduced the concepts of protected classes and unlawful employment practices in American business. Test scores cannot be used in any way that promotes discrimination. Both the private and the public sector are obliged to comply with Title VII, or risk breaking the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ensures, among other things, a workplace environment that is free from sexual harassment and hostility based on gender or race. In general, the Civil Rights Act of 1964's employment provisions cover a range of situations that might arise and that do arise to prevent the extension of Fourteenth Amendment rights to all citizens of the United States.
Another important accomplishment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the creation of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). This body was created with a mandate to promote and enforce the provisions stated in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC is entrusted with the active outreach services required to encourage all private and public sector employees to transition from outmoded employee selection habits to more egalitarian human resources strategies. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented a radical change of pace, and demanded deep structural changes for businesses. The EEOC was in part created to provide any technical support needed to educate employees about their legal rights and responsibilities, as well as to offer consultation on how to go about implementing equal opportunity practices. The EEOC also serves as a liaison between the government and the American people, entrusted as a source of information about the rights of citizens with regards to their employers. For the first time, women and non-whites had the right to sue their employers for discrimination. And for the first time, women and non-whites had a chance of winning those suits.
The Effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on Today's Society
The specificity of the act was remarkable, and brought to light the extent to which discrimination had become engrained in standard operating procedures throughout all social, cultural, political, and economic institutions. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covered a gamut of scenarios that were familiar to more than half the American population, including sexual harassment in the workplace. Institutionalized racism and sexism existed to such a deep degree that it would take generations for the real effects of Civil Rights legislation to come to fruition. There are several reasons why Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is still needed, and used.
One reason why Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is still needed and used is that gender and racial parity have not yet been realized. Both women and non-whites have enjoyed equal protection under the law, but there are still lingering signs of institutionalized sexism and racism. For example, women continue to earn less for the same job as men. One of the main weaknesses of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has been its failure to protect equal pay for equal work as a fundamental provision of the legislation. Wage discrimination, job segregation, and related issues are actually covered textually in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and more thoroughly by revisions to the act covered by the EEOC. Blumrosen (1978), for example, speaks about both the black-white and the male-female wage differentiation that plagues the country. For this reason, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act is necessary. Currently, the EEOC claims that equal pay is a mandate but this mandate has not come to fruition. Women remain systematically discriminated against with regards to pay and access to positions of power in the workplace.
With regards to race, having an African-American president does not negate the need for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act remains necessary because of the continued income disparities between whites and blacks in America, which is in part related to generations of unequal access to educational services and other paths by which to achieve social and economic parity. Until these issues have been resolved, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains necessary.
The plight of African-Americans had grown so grim by 1964 that many had given up on white institutions. Rhetoric from the African-American community shifted from submissive acceptance of inequity toward justifiably angry self-empowerment. Malcolm X provided an apt counterpart to the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Black Power movement reclaimed black identity, and created new black public spheres of discourse that transcended the status quo. Black arts and culture revitalized itself, and black communities grew stronger internally, in opposition to the dominant culture. The result was that many African-Americans failed to take advantage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its provisions, such as Title VII. Having gone through generation after generation of rights deprivation, a sort of cultural fatigue set in, in which rebellion and resentment characterized the response to white culture. Integration had been achieved at the level of the law, but it was too late for some. Many African-Americans shunned integration, because it was viewed as submission to white culture rather than a true integration that would value black input and black ideas. African-American remained suppressed and oppressed in spite of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This does not mean that the Title VII provisions, or the Act in general, are no longer relevant. What it does mean is that American society has a long way to go before the Civil Rights Act becomes…