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Our Government Gets Crafty With the Constitution… Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream

Our Government Gets Crafty With the Constitution

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream……

Today we celebrate the legacy and the great works of Martin Luther King Jr. King fought for equality for all Americans. It makes me happy that we finally elected an African American as president and I will be even happier when a female gets elected to that position. (sidenote: Of course they need to be Republican:)))

I taught government for many years and there were a few things that I found especially interesting.

Situation 1: Let’s pretend that you know an African American female who is married to a Caucasian male and they have three children. There is a new family owned restaurant called The Cool Place that has just opened. The owners are very ignorant people (and not cool at all). Your friends go to eat at The Cool Place but the owners do not like that they are a couple who is African American and Caucasian. They refuse to serve your friends. They just ignore them and decide that eventually the couple will go away.

Is this legal? Can an owner of a business choose who he serves in his business or does he have to serve everyone regardless of how he feels about them?

Answer: This is notlegal. He must not discriminate and if he does, the government can shut down his business.

During the 1960’s,  many Americans were tired of businesses discriminating  African Americans. This discrimination took places at various businesses (hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, etc). The federal government needed Congress to pass a law that made it illegal for businesses to discriminate. How would they do this?

They decided to use the use a clause found in the Constitution, the commerce clause. In Article I (section 8) the founding fathers said that “The Congress shall have Power […] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

What does this mean? This basically means that Congress gets to regulate commerce (the activity of buying and selling) with other countries and within the United States.

Because Congress gets to 

 “regulate interstate commerce” they can pass a law dealing with   

   commerce.  Congress went to work and used this commerce clause  

  as justification for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


 The main points of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

1. Barred unequal application of voter registration requirements.

2. Outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce; exempted private clubs without defining the term “private

3.Prohibited state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on grounds of race, color, religion or national origin.

4. Encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U.S. Attorney General to file suits to enforce said act.

5. Expanded the Civil Rights Commissionestablished by the earlier Civil Rights Act of 1957 with additional powers, rules and procedures.

6. Prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds. If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency may lose its federal funding.

Situation 2: You are an African American man and want to join a private country club that is a mile from our house. Your neighbor just joined and talks all the time about how wonderful the club is. You put in your application but never receive a call. You call to find out what the problem is and you learn that the club’s board of directors have chosen not to allow you in the club. They tell you they do not have to give you a reason. Is this legal? Answer:  Unfortunately it is. You are not protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the country club is private entity. States can discourage this type of discrimination by not giving tax breaks to these types of clubs.

Discrimination of any kind is never ok. I think that we must break the cycle. Teach your kids and show by example to love everyone and treat everyone with respect, kindness, and love. None of us are better than another human being. We are all God’s children. Some of us are a lot luckier and have been born (in the US) and into families where we have been taught to love and treat everyone kindly.

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