Walter E. Williams

Rand Paul of Kentucky, U.S. Senate hopeful, is caught up in a swirl of controversy in response to his comments on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show." He has been dishonestly accused of saying he thinks that private businesses have a right to discriminate against black people. Here's a partial transcript of the pertinent question in the interview:

Maddow: "Do you think that a private business has a right to say, 'We don't serve black people'?" To which Paul answered, "I'm not, I'm not, I'm not in ... yeah ... I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form."

The "yeah" was spun in the media as "yes" to the question whether private businesses had a right to refuse service to black people. Paul had told Maddow that while he supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act in general, he thought that provisions banning private discrimination might have gone too far.

Rush Limbaugh

Democrats launched an attack on Paul accusing him of being a racist. Republicans criticized and in the words of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Paul's "philosophy is misplaced in these times." He added that Paul has a libertarian perspective and "(has) a very, very strong view about the limitation of government intrusion into the private sector."

Should people have the right to discriminate by race, sex, religion and other attributes? In a free society, I say yes. Let's look at it. When I was selecting a marriage partner, I systematically discriminated against white women, Asian women and women of other ethnicities that I found less preferable. The Nation of Islam discriminates against white members. The Aryan Brotherhood discriminates against having black members. The Ku Klux Klan discriminates against having Catholic and Jewish members. The NFL discriminates against hiring female quarterbacks. The NAACP National Board of Directors, at least according to the photo on their Web page, has no white members.

You say, Williams, that's different. It's not like public transportation, restaurants and hotel service in which Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act "prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment." While there are many places that serve the public, it doesn't change the fact that they are privately owned, and who is admitted, under what conditions, should be up to the owner.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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