John Stossel continues to defend his argument that the sections of the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination by private businesses should be repealed, arguing that discrimination by businesses would have disappeared if not for Jim Crow laws. In fact, long after the repeal of Jim Crow, the Department of Justice continues to file discrimination cases against private businesses.
Stossel defends his claim that portions of the Civil Rights Act should be repealed
Stossel calls for repeal of public accommodations section of Civil Rights Act. On the May 20 edition of Fox News' America Live, John Stossel said that "it's time now to repeal" the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act "because private business ought to get to discriminate."
Stossel defended his claim by citing early 20th century companies that were forced to discriminate by Jim Crow laws. In a May 25 FoxBusiness.com blog post, Stossel wrote: "When private companies didn't segregate - many thought it was bad business -- governments forced them to. ... That government-enforced racism is why eight out of ten provisions in the Civil Rights Act were so necessary. But two other provisions -- which ban private companies from discriminating -- are a mistake. They violate individuals' freedom to decide with whom to associate, and what to do with one's own property. Those two provisions were unnecessary. As I noted earlier on my blog, many private companies in the South were eager to serve Blacks." In a blog post earlier that day, Stossel said that the free market is "color-blind. Businesses want to make money, and they do that best by serving customers of all races. Eventually, inclusive businesses grow, and racists go broke." Stossel cited examples of early-20th century companies that reportedly wanted to serve African Americans but were precluded from doing so by Jim Crow laws:
Many private businesses objected to government-forced segregation. In the Journal of Economic History, Economic Historian Jennifer Roebuck pointed out that street car companies wanted to serve Blacks. When the State of Florida forced transportation companies to segregate races in 1905, the Florida Times-Union reported:
[I]t was passed by the Legislature much against the will of the streetcar companies operating in the state... the streetcar company in this city has always accorded to the colored people who have patronized their lines the most careful and generous treatment... it is thought that there will be no concerted efforts on the part of the colored people of Jacksonville to boycott the streetcars.
Blacks boycotted the railroad anyway. So a competing company built new lines that served mostly blacks and seated them in front, whites in the back. The market partially got around the racist Jim Crow law in that case.
In another case from 1902, Mobile, Alabama, passed a segregation law that the Mobile Light and Railroad Company "flat out refused to enforce." Enter the fist of government:
On November 1 , the police chief wrote to the president of the Mobile Light and Railroad Company, advising him that the ordinance would be enforced by the police force if necessary... One of [the company's] conductors was arrested and fined on December 12.
The Savannah Tribune, a black newspaper, reported in 1899 that: "We have always said that the railroad officials are not anxious to carry into effect the unjust laws passed by the several states requiring separate cars for the races."
The free market is naturally color-blind. Businesses want to make money, and they do that best by serving customers of all races. Eventually, inclusive businesses grow, and racists go broke.
Racist Southern governments hated integration, so they used government force to make companies segregate.
Eight out of ten provisions in the Civil Rights Act struck down those horrible Jim Crow laws. But the other two provisions are a mistake. They violate individuals' freedom to decide with whom to associate.
But alleged violations of public accommodations section continue to occur long after the repeal of Jim Crow laws
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and federal court decisions effectively ended racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws in the South. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in employment, by various businesses, and in some state programs. Title II of that Act specifically prohibits businesses that are open to the general public from discriminating against consumers based on these criteria. The statute also authorized the Attorney General to file lawsuits against state laws that discriminated on those bases. The Civil Rights Act, along with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and subsequent cases, effectively repealed Jim Crow laws across the South.
Even after the end of Jim Crow, many companies challenged the constitutionality of the public accommodations section of the Act, and many were sued under that section. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies that discriminated against blacks challenged the constitutionality of the public accommodations section, arguing that they should be allowed to continue discriminating. A few examples are below:
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States: The owner of an Atlanta motel had a policy of refusing to rent rooms to blacks and filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the public accommodations section was in fact constitutional.
- Katzenbach v. McClung: In a companion case to Heart of Atlanta Motel, the owners of an Alabama restaurant that discriminated against blacks filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the public accommodation section of the Civil Rights Act as applied to restaurants. The Supreme Court again upheld the constitutionality of the statute.
- Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises: Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc. owned five drive-in restaurants and a sandwich shop which all discriminated against blacks. The victims brought a class action suit under the public accommodations section. The lower court granted an injunction to the plaintiffs, but denied them attorney's fees. In 1969 the Supreme Court held that -- if the plaintiff wins an injunction -- they should normally be awarded attorney's fees.
- Daniel v. Paul: In this case, a privately owned recreational area denied admissions to blacks. In 1969, the Supreme Court held that the recreational area was a public accommodation within the meaning of the Civil Riights Act under Title II and that the Civil Rights Act did not violate the Constitution as applied to the recreational area.
Department of Justice continues to file lawsuits alleging violations of public accommodations section by private businesses. Even in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Department of Justice continues to investigate and file lawsuits alleging that private businesses are violating the public accommodations section of the Civil Rights Act. In one case, the wife of a federal judge and Secret Service agents accused Denny's of discriminating against black customers:
- Denny's: In the 1990s, thousands of black customers of Denny's restaurants -- including the wife of a federal judge and Secret Service agents -- filed suit alleging that Denny's discriminated on the basis of race. were discriminating against Black patrons in the 1990s, the United States filed a complaint under Title II. Denny's paid $45 million in damages and "implemented a nationwide program to prevent future discrimination."
- Marriott International: The DOJ investigated the Marriott International hotel chain for revoking its agreement to host the Midwest Federation of American Syrian-Lebanese Clubs' 2002 convention in the wake of September 11, 2001. The DOJ settled the case on August 15, 2002, making this the first discrimination case resolved post-September 11.
- Hard Times Cafe: The DOJ settled a case with F&K Management, Inc., doing business as Hard Times Cafe and Santa Fe Cue Club, for discriminating against Sikhs in one of its clubs on September 23, 2001.
A collection of many more recent and resolved public accommodation cases can be found on the website of the National Civil Rights organization.