AFTER CIVIL RIGHTS, WHAT?
By a smashing vote of 289 to 126 the House finally approved the Civil Rights Bill and sent it to the President, thus ending a long, hectic battle of many years, but also the beginning of another tough road ahead.
Its passage is especially pleasing to those of us in Congress who have worked consistently and militantly to transform the civil rights revolution into meaningful benefits and not merely another unenforced law that looks pretty on paper.
Now the question arises about its effects, particularly in California where we already have even stronger laws against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, and where voting is free and open to all, even though we don't always use it as we should.
Let's get this straight in answer to those who say we are pushing civil rights too fast and too far: this law creates no new rights not already enjoyed by other Americans, merely new machinery for handling old problems.
Civil Rights Fight Not Over
Also, let's understand that this Federal Civil Rights law is not a cure-all for the many problems with which we suffer. Many more laws are needed before "equal opportunities and justice for all" becomes a reality.
In addition, other economic, educational, and social legislation must be passed to reach the basic causes of our many problems, other than purely civil rights. Such legislation as Federal aid-to-education, adult literacy, anti-poverty programs, expanded social security, increased old age pensions, better housing, and youth welfare are a few examples.
More Jobs Expected
That section of the new Civil Rights law pertaining to equal employment opportunities (Title VII) may bring us the most immediate benefits in California by strengthening our state Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) and closing loop-holes in its coverage that should result in the creation of thousands of new job openings. I am proud that this part of the new law was the direct result of bills sponsored by Congressman James Roosevelt and myself, and the decision to include an anti-discrimination in employment provision, which was not in President Kennedy's original bill (June 1963), was upon our insistence.
But even laws upon the statute books are not enough. They must be wisely used, properly administered, and implemented with a lot of community action.
In Mississippi, Alabama, and other southern states, this may prove troublesome if not outright dangerous. And we must be ready to assist civil rights organizations in protecting our fellow citizens who daily face violence, intimidation, and mob rule.
Civil Rights in California
In California, while our approach may be different, we also must take advantage of this great legislative victory. It is a good time to improve our school facilities, get more training programs for both our youth and adult family heads, demand more action from our state FEPC in eliminating job discrimination, help our unemployed and relief families to become self-supporting, replace our slums with decent housing, and back the anti-poverty war in California.
What We Must Do
Briefly, here are some fairly self-evident things for us to do:
One final thought: the present high interest in civil rights presents a new opportunity for good people of all groups to work together in harmony. In California, we can show the world how cooperation can be built; and how "working together" means more jobs, better communities, and greater prosperity for all.