Reflecting on a Bit of History and the Civil Rights Question

1stbaptist-ripley In light of the discussion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I was struck by the following post by Alan Cross, a friend of mine and pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL: Church Under Siege.

In the post Alan recounts, in part, the events of May 21, 1961 and the assault on the First Baptist Church on Ripley Street in Montgomery, AL.  For those unfamiliar, the church is not that far from the state capitol building.

The church was an African-American congregation founded by slaves in the 1860s.  The assault in question was a response to a service being held to honor the Freedom Riders—persons who were testing the new federal ruling against segregation in restaurants and bus terminals.  Opposition to desegregation was so great that the Riders were physically assaulted at bus stations in Birmingham, AL, for example.

Alan wrote:

How would you feel if you went to your church one Sunday night for a special gathering to talk about issues happening in your community, to sing songs of worship to God, to pray, and to hear preaching, and a mob of over 2,000 people surrounded your church throwing rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails through the windows and then turned a car over and set it on fire?  How would you feel if you did not have any protection from the police or city or state officials?  What if the mob began to beat on the doors yelling that they were going to kill you and as they threw objects through second story windows, broken glass was showering down on the women and children huddled together for protection inside the sanctuary?

Does this make you think of recent events in Orissa, India? Or maybe something that you would hear about in the Middle East or China or Russia during the days of Communism?

Unfortunately, this event happened in America.  It happened in the Deep South, the Bible Belt – Alabama to be specific. It happened in the city where I now live and work and make my home, Montgomery, Alabama. It happened before we took prayer out of schools, before the Kennedy Assassination, before the Beatles came to America, before the sexual revolution and the gay rights and Hippie movements, and before Roe Vs. Wade. It happenened in 1961 when life was supposedly wonderful in America and we were full of family values.  It happened in a state where 2/3’s of adult whites were Southern Baptists.

It is a stunning reminder of what life was like in the deep south not all that long ago and why Rand Paul finds himself facing criticism when he makes it sounds as if the problems that existed would have eventually worked themselves out without government intervention into private businesses.

I have no complex commentary on the subject, but rather I happened to come across the post this evening and it struck me given the whole Rand Paul discussion.  I think that it is easy to be unaware or to under appreciate exactly what life was like in the deep south for blacks prior to (and even after) the civil rights movement took hold in this country.  As such, reminders like this one are worth our consideration.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Juneau: says:

    How would you feel if you went to your church one Sunday night for a special gathering to talk about issues happening in your community, to sing songs of worship to God, to pray, and to hear preaching, and a mob of over 2,000 people surrounded your church throwing rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails through the windows and then turned a car over and set it on fire? How would you feel if you did not have any protection from the police or city or state officials?

    Yeah, these types of attacks must be extremely frightening to the the Christians that are going through this exact stuff – plus being killed – in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, Rwanda, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much urgency on the left to acknowledge, much less address, any of those downtrodden peoples.

    We do indeed live in a great country where the civil rights act was a jewel in the crown of our Republic. Someday… we’ll have to start acting like that battle is over, instead of turning it into a mandate to outlaw the freedom of some to think and believe as they choose – no matter how stunted or reprehensible their outlook may be. Ron Paul is just the latest scapegoat for the high priests of PC to lay at the altar of “Things thou shalt not say.” Pitiful excuse to pillory a man who was speaking of the purity of freedom, while still acknowledging the appropriateness of the Civil Rights legislation.

  2. TangoMan says:

    When Martial Law is invoked it runs until it’s needed no longer and then it is revoked. Why not revoke that Constitution corrupting aspect of CRA and allow private people to once again exercise their right to free association? Do you imagine that violence will return and that people will clamor to discriminate? I certainly don’t. I have more faith in my fellow citizens than do most of the critics who are willing to tolerate freedom-abridging measures to fight present-day phantoms.

  3. Herb says:

    Ron Paul is just the latest scapegoat for the high priests of PC to lay at the altar of “Things thou shalt not say.” Pitiful excuse to pillory a man who was speaking of the purity of freedom, while still acknowledging the appropriateness of the Civil Rights legislation.

    And up is down too now?

    Ron Rand Paul was no victim. He’s a big boy, running for national office, and he muffed an interview. It happens. Not always because of the “high priests of PC.” Sometimes it’s because the candidate is just not up to the job they are applying for.

    I love this, though:
    “still acknowledging the appropriateness of the Civil Rights legislation”

    Yeah, after being shamed into it after the outcry started to hurt his campaign. He was against the CRA before he was for it. Real integrity there….

    Why not revoke that Constitution corrupting aspect of CRA and allow private people to once again exercise their right to free association?

    Because it cuts both ways. My neighborhood is 49% Latino/Hispanic, 15% black, and only 30% white. Down the street, there’s a panaderia, lavanderia, fruiteria, carniceria, and a peliqueria.

    As of this moment, NONE of them have a “No se permitten gringos” sign. In this utopia of free association and absolute freedom that you favor, that might change.

    Do you imagine that violence will return and that people will clamor to discriminate?

    Yes. It will return. People will clamor to discriminate.

    It’s inevitable. If the prohibition on cigarette advertising was lifted, we’d see more cigarette advertising, not less, not “roughly the same amount as before.” No, it would be more.

  4. TangoMan says:

    Because it cuts both ways. My neighborhood is 49% Latino/Hispanic, 15% black, and only 30% white. Down the street, there’s a panaderia, lavanderia, fruiteria, carniceria, and a peliqueria.

    As of this moment, NONE of them have a “No se permitten gringos” sign. In this utopia of free association and absolute freedom that you favor, that might change.

    Freedom will never come on terms that please everyone. There is plenty of speech that doesn’t appeal to me yet I’m not willing to deprive people of a fundamental human right in order to lessen the inconvenience to me. Similarly, if some establishment in my neighborhood doesn’t want my business, terrific, I’ll appreciate their being upfront about it rather than spitting in my hamburger before it comes out of the kitchen. Just like we put up with offensive speech because that is the cost that must be borne in order to maintain freedom, so to should we tolerate people not wanting our company forced upon people against their will in order to maintain our freedom to associate with those who choose to associate with us.

    Just out of curiosity, how many Asians and Gringos work at the panaderia, lavanderia, fruiteria, carniceria, and the peliqueria that are down the street from you? Do they discriminate in their hiring?

    Yes. It will return. People will clamor to discriminate.

    Not likely. Some will take advantage of it, others won’t. The customers will realign accordingly. Take a look at the furor that erupted around Abercrombie and Fitch a few years ago. The public, and more importantly the customers of A&F, spoke loudly and clearly in expressing their opinions on A&F hiring practices. For every company that feels it wants to associate with people according to their own standards there will be others stepping forward to appeal to the customers who walk away in disagreement.

  5. Herb says:

    First…..

    This is not a free speech issue. “I don’t like gringos” is speech. “I won’t serve gringos” goes above speech and becomes an action. It’s also not a “free assembly” issue.

    Just out of curiosity, how many Asians and Gringos work at the panaderia, lavanderia, fruiteria, carniceria, and the peliqueria that are down the street from you? Do they discriminate in their hiring?

    Good question. No, they do not discriminate in their hiring, because that’s prohibited by law. They are small family-owned mom-and-pop places, though, so the workers owners are Latinos. However the Avanza supermarket down the street has white people, Hispanic people, and even black people on staff.

    Take a look at the furor that erupted around Abercrombie and Fitch a few years ago.

    Bad example, Tango. The Abercrombie and Fitch episode wasn’t some spontaneous customer revolt. They were sued, accused of violating “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” and settled out of court , bound by a consent decree.

    In other words, it’s an example of how the CRA is still necessary, even in this day and age, because if companies are allowed to discriminate based on race, they will discriminate based on race.

  6. Juneau: says:

    I love this, though:
    “still acknowledging the appropriateness of the Civil Rights legislation”

    Uhhh, he said this during the same interview, in the same time frame, with the same subject on the table. It was not an afterthought as you are trying to characterize it. Try again, please.

  7. Juneau: says:

    I wonder how many of the posters on here who are castigating Ron Paul based on MSNBCs inaccurate quote of his statement to Rachel Maddow? MSNBC has now acknowledged that the way they wrote the transcript of the interview is “misleading” but “technically correct.”

    He didn’t say “Yes” when asked if he supported businesses refusing to serve a person based upon their race. He said he doesn’t support discrimination of any kind. What a joke the media has become – and just another transparent ploy to smear anyone that is not a Democrat.

  8. The Q says:

    Tangoman,

    It will return and YOU will be leading the mob.

    In fact, we still have the CRA and racism happens all the time in this country.

    To Juneau, R Paul plainly has said that private companies should be able to discriminate and
    those who disagree with such despicable practices would not patronize those establishments, hence the capitalist system will rid the market of these business ergo no intrusive gubmint regulations are necessary.

    What incredible bullshit…yeah and if I put my pillow under the tooth fairy, money will mysteriously appear.

    Why don’t you backward conservatives join the Muslim crowd i.e. give up your neolithic world view which has nothing to do with reality…quit relying on cant, mysticism, shibboleths and myths to buttress your tired anachronistic 18th century view of the world.

    Lets face it, your idiotic policies which have been continuously discredited in the real world, yet you fools hang onto these discredited ideas like the Imans who think that by killing innocents they will screw 47 virgins in heaven.

    My God, Paul said what he said in plain English yet you loons jump to defend the incomprehensible…i.e. tax cuts will get rid of the deficit, Iraq has WMDs (without a doubt according the the dickster), “accidents will happen”, private biz should ban negroes if they chosse (even though he disagrees blah blah).

    So how do you constitutional tea baggers feel about banning child labor?

  9. The Q says:

    sorry for all the typos and grammar mistakes…what happened to viewing comments before posting?

  10. TangoMan says:

    It will return and YOU will be leading the mob.

    Oh my god, oh my god!!!!

    What????

    The libertarians are coming, the libertarians are coming!!!!

    So what?

    Don’t you understand? If they get power, they’ll, they’ll . . . . . .

    What? Leave everyone alone and butt out of people’s lives?

    Well, uh, hmm, never mind. Hey, is that a pink rhinoceros over there. Look. It is.

  11. Juneau says:

    In fact, we still have the CRA and racism happens all the time in this country.

    Yep, and it always will – on both sides of the color and race dividing line. You know – those dividing characteristics which liberals insist on emphasising at every excruciating opportunity?

    This individual appears to be in desparate need of a rabies shot.

  12. tom p says:

    Why not revoke that Constitution corrupting aspect of CRA and allow private people to once again exercise their right to free association?

    Tango: Where in the CRA did it say anybody had to associate with anybody else? Need I remind you of all the whites only golf clubs that exist even now?

    And don’t talk about “private” bussiness. ALL private business is supported by tax payer supported institutions… you know, little things like water, sewer, police, fire…

    I will give these “private” bussinesses a break when they tell a black fireman that he has to leave “the premises”… while he is on duty.

  13. tom p says:

    Yeah, these types of attacks must be extremely frightening to the the Christians that are going through this exact stuff – plus being killed – in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, Rwanda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

    Juneau: I can not help but notice that you left the US of A off your list.

    We do indeed live in a great country where the civil rights act was a jewel in the crown of our Republic. Someday… we’ll have to start acting like that battle is over,

    Note to Rand Paul: that battle is over.

    instead of turning it into a mandate to outlaw the freedom of some to think and believe as they choose – no matter how stunted or reprehensible their outlook may be.

    Juneau: Here is a clue, if they want to get together in their robes on some piece of truly private land and talk about “freedom of association”… fine with me.

    But when they come on to my property and burn a cross because I have the gall to rent to a black, single mother, who works and pays her bills (1993)(St. Louis, MO)….

    F U….

    (not you in specific, F them) fact is, this stuff is not ancient history, hells bells it is here and now. (come to s, MO, I’ll show you)

    If you didn’t live in Alaska, (I presume?) you would know this by now. (Hells bells, living in Alaska, if you looked at your “native” populations, you’d know it now too)

  14. tom p says:

    Steve, thanx for the post. I am barely old enuf to remember trains, 25 cent gas, and “blacks only” drinking fountains.

  15. Herb says:

    I wonder how many of the posters on here who are castigating Ron Paul based on MSNBCs inaccurate quote of his statement to Rachel Maddow?

    Who’s castigating Ron Paul? You do know we’re talking about his son Rand, right? I know they do have similar views and, indeed, similar names, but they remain two distinct people.

    Of course, there is the possibility that you’ve made an innocent mistake….repeatedly.

    Don’t you understand? If they get power, they’ll, they’ll . . . . . .

    What? Leave everyone alone and butt out of people’s lives?

    Maybe, but this is why they live on the political fringes. I’m all for butting out of people’s lives. But we do live in a geographically and demographically large country with vast resources and diverse needs. It needs a government, and on occasion, that government may get in your face.

    Libertarian philosophy has its uses, but like an overused antibiotic, it gets to be a bit counter-productive in large doses.

  16. TangoMan says:

    And don’t talk about “private” bussiness. ALL private business is supported by tax payer supported institutions… you know, little things like water, sewer, police, fire…

    Fertility clinics are also supported by taxpayer funded institutions, you know, little things like water, sewer, police and fire departments, so they need to stop facilitating discrimination by labeling the race of their sperm and egg donors. Right? Once a business is touching a road, then the government has all the authority it needs to come in and stop people from discriminating.

  17. TangoMan says:

    The good thing that arises from the Rand Paul discussions is that Congress will need to revisit the monkey wrench they threw into society because the epicycles that have been created within the law are no longer functioning smoothly. All of the inconsistencies are now conflicting.

    The Supreme Court has dropped the mess created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 back into the lap of Congress to sort out:

    The Supreme Court reinstated a discrimination ruling Monday in favor of 6,000 black applicants for Chicago firefighting jobs in the 1990s, saying they had properly sued after it was clear that an entry-level test had a “disparate impact” based on race.

    The ruling leaves public employers in a pickle if they are required by law to use tests for deciding who should be hired or promoted.

    After two Supreme Court decisions with very different results in the last year, public employers can be sued for using tests that screen out most blacks and other minorities; they also can be sued by high-scoring white applicants if the test scores go unused.

    The apparent conflict is built into the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the justices said Monday. “It is a problem for Congress, not one federal courts can fix,” Justice Antonin Scalia said. . . .

    Though the recent court rulings have focused on city agencies, the civil rights provision involving disparate impact policies applies to all employers, private and public.

    Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley voiced some weariness with the years of litigation. “For decades we have tried to diversify the Chicago Fire Department. But at every turn, like most cities, we have been met with legal challenges from both sides.”

    When you screw around with the Constitution and institute epicyclic parameters then eventually the model will fall apart. Employers who wish to hire objectively, and so avoid charges of bias and discrimination, often turn to tests, but if the tests results show disparate impact, meaning that blacks score less than 4/5th the rate of whites, then blacks can claim discrimination. If the employer hires by test results they get sued and if they throw out the test results because they violate the 4/5 rule then they get sued.

    Congress, you screwed it up, now fix it.

  18. TangoMan says:

    Time to bring back preview.

  19. Herb says:

    Congress, you screwed it up, now fix it.

    So now you’re in favor of one-size-fits-all solutions coming from Congress? If they screwed it up in the first place, what makes you think they’ll fix it?

    This is a valid issue, though. In my town, where white people are the minority, the majority of police are white. The city has attempted to increase black and Hispanic hiring, and have been sued because of their failure to do so.

    The rub: the city hasn’t been discriminating against black or Hispanic candidates. There just haven’t been many black or Hispanic applicants. You can’t hire people who don’t apply, right?

    I’m not sure what Congress or the courts could do to “fix” that issue.

    (I will agree, though, that hiring a less qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate based solely on race is indeed an odious practice that can be fairly classified as “racism” and this practice should be ended immediately. Lowering standards is no way to address historical wrongs.)