I think HBO comedian, political commentator, and talk show host Bill Maher said it best. Mr. Maher said that conservative Libertarian candidate Rand Paul is the equivalent of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin if she could make it through medical school. In an interview on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, the new darling of the tea party movement, Mr. Paul, was asked point blank about his skepticism regarding the validity of certain components of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Mr. Paul sparked controversy when he suggested to Ms. Maddow that the government had meddled too far into private enterprise with the passage of laws that were intended to put an end to America’s institutionalized racial discrimination that still permeated the country despite a series of court decisions that found racial segregation and racial discrimination wrong. Ms. Maddow gave Mr. Paul an opportunity to explain his position on the matter. But instead of making a clear statement whether or not legislation designed to help assure racial accord was appropriate when asked for a yes or no, Mr. Rand continued to do his best political dance around the issue. He did not say that he opposed any laws guaranteeing fair treatment to racial minorities. But to some dismay he clearly did not say that he supported laws that guaranteed the fair treatment of racial minorities.
If I understand Mr. Paul’s point, government should not be in the business of telling private individuals and institutions that they must open their businesses to everyone. Mr. Paul believes that a truly free society is one that allows businesses run by people who are racist or people who condone racism from their employees to pick and choose what segment of our social fabric they will do business with. A government that is intended to provide for the general welfare of the public should not be empowered to assure the equal and fair treatment of anyone. Mr. Paul says that he does not condone racism. But even though racism may be an evil in our midst, government weeding out the evil of racism is an even bigger evil.
A business does not operate free from any obligation to the entire social collective regardless if it is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or some corporate entity given life by the stroke of some government official’s pen. Any business that operates in our communities enjoys the benefits of being part of our social collective. The roads that lead to any business and to its customers are provided by the public. The utilities that provide services to the business operate under the purview of our collective authority. The people who work in a given business are educated with our tax dollars. Even private schools operate according to parameters laid down by our social structure. A business enjoys the security of being protected from foreign entities by the United States government and its diplomatic and military machines. Any given business in our community operates under the protection of the United States economy and the value of the dollar. And although we often criticize our economic policy, our political leaders, selected by the voters, bend over backwards to protect the interest of businesses. Businesses get a lot of benefit from being part of our community.
But now, people like Rand Paul want to say that it isn’t appropriate for us to assure that businesses that enjoy the benefits of being part of our entire society keep up their end of the bargain. People like Mr. Paul want to say that businesses that reap the benefits of being in our American social structure should not be obligated to reciprocate to everyone in America. In Mr. Paul’s tolerance for racism, people should not expect equal and fair treatment from private entities that suck up public resources. It is Mr. Paul’s opinion that racism is a right that should be protected and it should not be viewed as some form of social disorder.
The freedom of business owners to deny whomever they wish a service or a product should not be given precedence over our public concept of social equality. The freedom of a business person to exercise their right to be racist should not be given precedence over our freedom to be treated fairly and our right to equal treatment.
Rand Paul can tout his tolerance for discrimination as some kind of twenty first century enlightenment against the evil of a government run amok. But the fact of the matter is that this is nothing more than old fashioned racism rearing its head and coming back strong after just a few decades of being on the down low. People are saying we have the right to be racist. That just might be true.
But our social collective not only has the right not to indulge racism, we each have an obligation to root it out call attention to it when we encounter racial discrimination or even the potential for racism. I know I like to think that I do my fair share. And today, I would like to call your attention to the racism of Rand Paul. A conservative Libertarian who would rather see blacks and other minorities discriminated against rather than see our government step up to the plate and nip racial discrimination in the bud as best it can. If Mr. Paul is elected, people all across this great nation of ours will have a hope that one day they can pull their “Whites Only” signs out of their attics or basements or garages or wherever they might have been put when our social order woke up and realized the long term impact that our tolerance for racism was causing to our national community.
Of course Mr. Paul can have his view that a truly free society must tolerate racism. He is a white man who would benefit greatly from the social conflict that comes with racism compared to how much he would actually suffer. Very few businesses would turn him and his kind away. They operate in the generic majority with control of well over ninety five percent of the resources and wealth in this country. But for racial minorities, the election of Mr. Paul and the people who support his views should be another clear sign that racism is far from over.