Rand Paul Stance on Segregation Has Antique Quality to It

Blair L.M. Kelley addresses Paul's outdated stance on segregation.

Posted:
 

Rand Paul has some rather out-of-date thoughts on segregation and Professor Blair L.M. Kelley intellectually throat chops him for them on Salon

It seems as though Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Kentucky, son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and self-proclaimed representative of the Tea Party movement, has some serious difficulty explaining his approach to questions of race and civil rights. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Paul started by saying that he liked civil rights and opposed discrimination; he even claimed he would have marched with Martin Luther King had he been old enough. However, he suggested that he would seek to end the parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that required privately-owned businesses that served the public to desegregate. Just as Paul was misrepresenting his ability to join the 1963 March on Washington (he was born in 1963), he was also attempting the impossible feat of appropriating King’s legacy while arguing for dismantling one of the movement’s most substantive victories.

...

According to Paul, the historic battle to be served at lunch counters at Woolworths or Kress stores, or use the public restrooms or water fountains in those stores was, in fact, an intrusion. For Paul, the desegregation of these businesses was a kind of "government takeover" that infringed on the First Amendment rights of segregationist business owners to say "abhorrent things."

Paul’s comments echo the arguments made for segregation in his state before the turn of the 20th century. In 1891 it was State Senator Tipton Miller from rural Calloway County, Kentucky who proposed a new law requiring railroads "to furnish separate coaches or cars for the travel or transportation of the white and colored passengers." It detailed an efficient and cost effective means for privately owned railroad lines to divide passengers that left blacks jammed behind uncomfortable partitions marked with "appropriate words in plain letters indicating the race for which it is set apart." Segregation was favored by businesses in Kentucky and the new law was a way to codify the preferences of white passengers throughout the state.