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Should Business Owners Have More Rights Than Blacks?

With the end of Jim Crow, business owners had fewer rights. But blacks had more rights. Whose freedom counts?

With the end of Jim Crow, business owners had fewer rights. But blacks had more rights. Whose freedom counts?

Black History Month has got me thinking about Rand Paul’s belief that business owners should have more rights than Blacks.

What? You say. Paul never said that!

Well, not in those words. He’s probably never thought about it that way, himself. But that’s the implication of his stand on the Civil Rights Act, which forced White business owners to hire and serve Black people on an equal basis with Whites.

Like other libertarians Rand feels there is a trade-off between liberty and equality. The more fairness arises via legislation, the more freedom is suppressed.

Government is tyranny, we are told. Government should not force private businesses to do anything other than abide by contract law and pay as few taxes as possible to support police and defense.

Under segregation, allowing Blacks to eat at any restaurant, stay at any motel or be hired for any sort of job would infringe on the liberty of Whites to keep Blacks out of their restaurants, motels or sundry businesses.

So last May, while running for senate, Paul stated that he would not have supported the Civil Rights Act at the time it was introduced (though as established law, he would not support its repeal now).

Too much freedom lost!

But whose liberty is lost, exactly? Did the Civil Rights Act infringe on the freedom of Blacks to eat, sleep or get a job? Or did it expand their autonomy?

When Black people could not find a place to eat or sleep, or even use a restroom while traveling in the South, health problems could arise, including falling asleep at the wheel — killing themselves and others. Health problems also stem from the poverty that comes from poor education and job discrimination. And a Southern resistance to paying for healthcare for Blacks was a key factor in fighting universal healthcare under Nixon.

How free is someone who’s sick or dead?

Whose freedom counts in Paul’s world? Really, who counts and who doesn’t?

Powerful Whites may have felt restricted under the Civil Rights Act. But powerless Blacks could gain liberty only with greater equality.

In Paul’s world might makes right: The powerful should stay powerful. And since they have much more control over political and economic structures, as well as media, they’re likely to retain privilege.

If there is a conflict between freedoms, whose rights should take precedence? Here we have property rights of Whites versus health, dignity, and self-determination of Blacks.

I personally feel that health, human dignity and autonomy should take precedence over property. But you make your own call.

Georgia Platts

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“Why I Left the KKK”: One Man’s Revelation
How Does Racism Hurt Racists? The Case of Emmett Till
Rise Up or Beat Others Down: Reactions to Oppression

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