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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Hannah Jenkins
Hannah Jenkins
Copy Editor

Hi! My name is Hannah Jenkins, and I am one of the copy editors here at the North Wind. I am a sophomore at NMU, and I love all things writing and editing-related. I am proud to be a part of this great...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Politician taken out of context

Rand Paul’s WMay 19 appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” during which he answered questions about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has generated a lot of buzz in the national media.

Much of the commentary has been negative and highly critical of Paul, yet after having watched the interview in its entirety, I can’t help but agree with the ideological principles that Paul expressed.

In the interview with Maddow, Paul, who recently won the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, said that he supported the bill’s elimination of race-based discrimination in the public sector.

He had reservations about the bill forcibly desegregating private businesses, which he felt was contrary to the First Amendment and should be left up to each owner’s discretion.

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Paul said that he personally is opposed to racism and would never be associated with individuals or businesses that practiced it.

He also said that he thought that institutional discrimination, such as the Jim Crow laws in effect in the American South during the Civil Rights movement, were “absolutely wrong and something that I absolutely oppose.”

Paul, who ultimately said that he would have supported the bill had he been in Congress during its passage, has faced a significant amount of criticism because of his comments.

A New York Times article referred to such beliefs as “politically treacherous for someone making an appeal to the electorate at large.”

Even Paul himself has expressed regret over the appearance, citing his belief that his comments would be taken out of context when filtered through the media cycle.

In understanding and contextualizing his comments, it is important to consider the distinction between public and private discrimination, elements of which are disallowed in the text of the Civil Rights Act.

The modifier “public” most often refers to discrimination that occurs in the form of discriminatory laws and in places that receive government funding. This form of discrimination is unacceptable because each U.S. citizen is guaranteed equal treatment by the law and equal access to public resources such as schools.

Private discrimination can be defined as being practiced by individuals or private businesses. According to the bill, it is illegal for people who own places of “public accommodation,” such as restaurants, hotels and stores, to discriminate against people based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or who they associate with.

It’s been 46 years since the passage of the bill. Today, almost every American sees that discrimination is vile, ignorant and self-defeating; but that does not mean that those few who wish to practice it should be punished by law. They should be dealt with by the individuals who would boycott their businesses, protest their practices and support their competitors.

Paul’s answers during the 10-minute and, at times, uncomfortable to watch interview were certainly not eloquent, yet they were in no way racist or supportive of discrimination. He denounced public discrimination and institutional racism as egregious, undemocratic and unjustifiable.

I agree with him that any business that partakes in discrimination is repulsive, and I would not patronize their services. However, I also agree that outlawing a private citizen’s right to discriminate is contrary to the principles of the First Amendment, which has been interpreted to guarantee the freedom of literal and figurative speech.

It takes courage to defend those with ideals that are contrary to your own, but it is necessary to ensure that everyone is afforded equal protection of the law, because as political commentator Neal Boortz said, “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.”

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