To read the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and hear the words of those who fought for it, you would think the bitterness that exists today over the ideas of affirmative action, racial quotas and preferential treatment for minorities could never have happened.
“It shall be unlawful to discriminate” in employment or education, the statute says, “against any individual because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
Moreover, “nothing contained in this (law) shall be interpreted to require any employer . . . to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group.”
Lest there be any doubt, the great liberal Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey himself stood on theSenate floor during debate on the measure and declared: “I will start eating the pages” of the law if anyone can find a clause that calls for quotas, preferences or racial balance in jobs or education.
Within a decade, however, the prevailing view of the 1964 civil rights law changed profoundly--and with consequences that fuel today’s rising controversy.