Desegregation was the primarily federal
policy of 1) eliminating the forced segregation common in state and local government policies (particularly in the South
), and 2) forcibly integrating most aspects of public life, such as retail businesses. The first major instance of desegregation in the 20th century
was the December 14, 1945 executive order
, Harry S Truman
ordering "that U.S. Army regulations make no racial distinctions in provision of meals, transportation or sleeping car accomodations." This was the beginning of the elimination official distinctions based upon race
in the military. The landmark case
for desegregation within the civilian population
was the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court
ruling outlawing separate but equal
schooling. From there numerous other rulings and laws, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act
gradually eliminated blatant racism from public life. These things have been lauded by people from both sides
of the political spectrum
. Few people would say that desegregation was wrong, and those who would likely would be labelled racist
d accordingly. I
am one of those few.
After considerable thought on the matter, I have come to the conclusion that forced desegregation is a bad idea. It is a violation of everyone's right to decide with whom they wish to associate, and will (and has) generally make everyone more miserable. The government should never discriminate against any individual except upon the basis of his or her behavior. Individuals, however, should be free to discriminate upon whatever basis they wish, and the government really should stay out of it.
Governments force all of us to pay taxes and obey laws. For this simple reason, they should be forbidden to practice such discrimination. A discriminated against individual cannot decide to purchase services from another government except by relocating, something which is not always possible, and may require forfeiture of the products of the offended party's labor. This is manifestly unfair. One who is discriminated against by an individual or corporation, even, can choose to associate with others who do not engage in offending practices.
During the age of forced segregation (which was, to be sure, even more evil than forced desegregation), black owned businesses flourished. They responded to the demands of their clientele for better service than the white owned businesses provided to them. By forcing private businesses to serve black people, those black businesses were destroyed by their lack of ability to compete with much larger white owned businesses, which is hardly surprising. What followed was urban blight, joblessness and disintegration of black neighborhoods. Such is the law of unintended consquences and the error that can result from even the best of intentions. Desegregation was not the sole cause of these things, of course, but it was an important contributing factor. The better way would be for the government to no longer support discrimination, either in law, or in the awarding of government contracts. Those businesses which wished to discriminate could continue to do so, and the business they lost would be picked up by others. Hard feelings would be greatly reduced, and government abuses associated with things such as affirmative action would be eliminated. Of course, there were many, many positive results of desegregation as well. Blacks and other minorities took advantage of opportunities never before seen. The world particularly changed for Blacks. My father told me that when he graduated from high school, he was only expected to compete with other blacks. His education, both formal and otherwise, had prepared him only for this eventuality. With desegregation, he had to quickly adapt to the fact that he now had to compete with everyone else as well. Now, to be sure, affirmative action helped ease the transition, but segregation was effectively a sort of affirmative action in and of itself. In his case, for example, black school systems required black teachers and administrators. This is essentially the same result as the one obtained through AA.
It is not often understood that segregation in public life was facilitated by government action. Any white business owner in numerous states who attempted to serve both black people and white people without respect to race could find himself firebombed, and local law enforcement would probably look the other way, if not actively support the action. This was a powerful force in maintaining segregation. Had law enforcement enforced property rights, and not actually forced businesses to be segregated in many areas, desegregation would probably have largely occured on its own. Some businesses would have chosen to remain segregated, as should be their right. Now, obviously, I am well aware that things would hardly be perfect if voluntary segregation were legal. Some people would be hurt by discrimination. Some would be helped. But everyone would be free to choose, and no one would have their rights taken away from them. This imperfect circumstance may be the best we mere mortals can hope to accomplish.