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Laws Against Racial Discrimination

Laws Against Racial Discrimination

The long history of legal prohibitions against race discrimination demonstrates the inadequacy of regulatory and legislative efforts for eliminating this problem. In fact, blatant racial discrimination remained a widespread reality across American society despite the fact that it was legally prohibited by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America and by the 1871 Civil Rights Act. Thus, despite the fact that race-based discrimination was already illegal, in 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 in response to complaints from civil rights protestors' about routine race discrimination in the employment practices at defense facilities as the nation prepared to respond to the Second World War. Executive Order 8802 made it illegal for any business receiving federal contracts to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, or creed in its employment policies and practices.

Despite the existence of Executive Order 8802, during the 1950's President Eisenhower nonetheless found it necessary to take action to address pervasive race discrimination within the construction industry, where unions with almost exclusively White memberships exerted immense control over employment. In 1953, Eisenhower established the President Committee on Government Contracts to be chaired by Vice-President R. M. Nixon. However, because of serious constrains imposed on it by southern politicians, the Committee's efforts were in effect restricted to advancing the causes of "justice and equality" through its efforts at "leadership and persuasion," instead of by compelling an end to discrimination or punishing those employers who failed to comply.

After long decades during which racial discrimination within the workplace remained systematic and omnipresent across huge regions of the United States-often with the active support of local legal and law enforcement agencies-race-based discrimination within the context of employment was finally deemed illegal according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (The Act also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, and gender, while a subsequent amendment-the Age Discrimination in Employment Act-prohibits discrimination against employees aged more than 40 years.)

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