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STATEMENT OF AUGUSTUS F. HAWKINS (CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYMAN) AT
CALIFORNIA HEARINGS OF THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

Los Angeles, California January 25, 1960

Mr. Chairman and Members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights:

May I first express my thanks for this opportunity to appear before you today and also to commend you for the excellent contribution which the Commission is making to a better understanding and solution of the vital problems facing our nation in the field of human relations.

It is my understanding that other witnesses will present evidence as to the existence of discrimination within our State. Therefore, I will confine my statement to the role which legislation has had in the development of state policy in the field of civil rights and the interrelationships existing among these rights.

In pursuit of the objectives for which the Commission was created, you have done well to include our State on your schedule.

California is virtually unparalled in historical potency. We have existed under four flags. Our State never experienced territorial status but framed a Constitution, elected a Legislature and a Governor before admission into the Union. We experimented with four different cities before selecting a State Capitol, experienced the excitement of a major gold rush and vigilante days; and we have sought border patrols to keep out new people and, then, in striking contrast, have welcomed new people, differing in every culture and ethnic background. One sociologist describing our people concluded that we are more American than America itself.


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It was therefore normal that in the field of human relations, legislation would reflect the turbulent history of our State and be exercised both to suppress and promote human rights and basic freedoms.

As a State we have had the experience of living with all the destructive features of an unnatural society: racial regimentation, segregation, restrictions on freedom of movement, separate educational opportunities, etc. before committing our State to a public policy of equality where racial, religious and national minorities are concerned.

Included in the many restrictions and limitations enacted against minorities between 1850 and 1900 were these:

  • 1. Right of suffrage was restricted to "white male" citizens

    1. Art. II, Sec. 1 of State Constitution as adopted in 1849.

    . Also Constitution of 1879 specifically denied right to vote to "natives of China".

    2. Art. II, Sec. 1 of State Constitution as adopted in 1879.

  • 2. Right of testimony in courts limited for minorities.

    3. Chap. V, Statutes of 1851; Chap. 467, Statutes of 1861.

  • 3. Employment of Chinese prohibited, State residence of aliens limited, and immigration into the State of foreigners ineligible to citizenship discouraged.
  • 4. Separate schools were general throughout period, especially for Chinese children. Absence of more separate schools at first for Negroes only due to their small population. School apportionment law at first related only to white children. (Subject too complex to detail further).

Before 1900, however, practically all of these laws had either been repealed by the Legislature or nullified by the Courts.

In contrast, since 1900, the more positive side has prevailed. Aside from anti-Oriental legislation, laws enacted have generally sought to implement constitutional guarantees and equal rights.


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Our basic Civil Rights Act affecting rights in places of public accomodation was passed in 1905,

1. Assembly Bill No. 216 (1905)

although earlier statutes (1893 and 1901) had paved the way. Not a single dissenting vote was cast in either house against its adoption.

Attached hereto is a summary of existing legislation concerning civil rights and matters related thereto which has been passed since 1900. (See Exhibit I).

It reveals a consistent and deep concern with the problems of human relations which face us as a growing state.

The period, however, is not without its stresses. In 1920, the Alien Land Law passed as an initiative act and prohibited the ownership of land by aliens ineligible to citizenship. It became generally recognized as a law to eliminate competition by alien Japanese in farming agricultural land. The law was struck down by the California Supreme Court in April 1952

2. Sei Fujii V. State, 38 Cal. 2d 718

— preceding the date when it would have become, in any event, inoperative under Federal Immigration and Nationality Act of June 1952, and was removed from the statute books by a direct vote of the people in an initiative act submitted by the Legislature.

3. Proposition No. 13 - 1956

Equally decisive was the people's approval of the Legislature's repeal of the discriminatory "Chinese Article" (Art. XIX) in the California Constitution

4. Proposition No. 14 - 1952

and the discriminatory property clause (Art. 1, Sec. 17 of State Constitution)

5. Proposition No. 18 - 1954

which protected only foreigners of the "white race" or of "African descent," thus discriminating against other non-citizens such as Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, etc.


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Remaining school discriminatory sections of our State statutes were repealed in 1947 (Chapter 737) thereby removing all such language from the Education Code. This, however, does not mean that school segregation in California may not exist by manipulation of school location, attendance boundaries, or as an incident of housing segregation.

Page 5 of Exhibit I (attached hereto) will clearly indicate that the 1959 Session of the State Legislature was deeply concerned with the Civil Rights question. Decisive steps were taken to prevent discrimination in the fields of employment and housing; and to further strengthen the basic Civil Rights Act. Other witnesses, I am sure, will evaluate the effects of these Acts and place them in proper perspective.

It is noteworthy, however, to point out that virtually every law, clause, or word facilitating discrimination or segregation has been wiped from our statute books; not a single statute since 1900 seeking affirmatively to uphold equal rights has been weakened, repealed or nullified; and while many must be strengthened and other areas covered, numerous Legislative Committees and community agencies are already busy on completing the task.

In particular, the need for stronger legislation to prevent housing discrimination is imperative. The Assembly District which I represent includes one of the racial ghettoes of California, the Avalon district in the Central area of Los Angeles. The population of this single area is 53, 160, of which 95% is almost exclusively Negro.

This concentration has been produced by the difficulties of obtaining housing elsewhere due largely to discrimination. Undesirable as this may be in itself, its many effects on the lives of people so confined are manifold worse.


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Not by law or any recognizable plan, but by residence, the schools in the area have become non-white, medical care is harder to obtain, credit more difficult to establish, insurance more expensive, and civic interest severely strained.

The subtle operation of factors in a State such as ours is well illustrated in a recent bulletin issued by an insurance company to California agents in which its rules stated it would "not write insurance, either auto or fire, for anyone living in a certain area" and then the "out area" was defined to consist of certain postal zones, including Los Angeles, Zone 11, which, in effect, ruled out everyone living in the Avalon district, specifically, 49, 537 Negroes without even mentioning such discriminatory designation.

The relationship between employment and certain other facilities was again demonstrated in the same bulletin when another rule was issued making "members of minority groups ...acceptable only if they are professional people, white collar worker or home owners".

Recently I undertook a layman's examination of "voter apathy" in this same area. Data used in this study are compiled in Exhibit II.

This study would indicate that the Los Angeles Negro residents of the "Eastside" Avalon district tend to register about average for the city as a whole, but vote substantially below the average.

The registration is relatively good considering such factors as mobility, absence of previous civic participation by many newcomers, and large number of children who may be represented in the area population. (Also Los Angeles County has efficient and aggressive Registration Office).

The lower voting record may be explained to some degree by high mobility due to housing conditions resulting in a person being registered


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although having moved, and not voted for over two years (California law has since been changed on a trial basis).

In conclusion, may I defend the role of legislation in reaching solutions in the emotion-packed field of civil rights. I gladly concede that education, community efforts, etc. play important roles, but the modern concept of legislation as a dynamic force in our democracy is something more than sanctions, coercion, and a prelude to judicial disposition. Legislation has proved not only the fairest means by which society controls itself in behalf of the common welfare, but a creative force for development. Both legislation and education are needed, and each can assist in improving the other.

California's experience has been a good example. Few states have lived through our turbulent history, dealt with more diverse groups in the population, to emerge with a sounder economy or more hope for the future.

Completely absent are all the consequences predicted by those who opposed civil rights legislation. Social tensions were not produced, courts have not been filled with such cases, nor have we seen an exodus of investment capital from the State. Industry and business are stronger. The State Chamber of Commerce predicts California faces one of its "most robust and dynamic years" in 1960. Our State Economic Development Agency predicts state personal income in 1960 will reach $42.1 billions, or 10.5% of the U.S. total.

We have much yet to do but I am confident the record indicates that our civil rights efforts are paying huge dividends not alone in income and profits, but a happier and more secure people; people with a growing acceptance of the belief that the strength of our State rests in its cultural diversity and full utilization of its resources, both human and natural; and that law is a vital factor in the accomplishment of this end.