Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 played an essential role in staunching racial discrimination, Professor Donald Tibbs said during an interview April 2 on SiriusXM Radio (subscription required).
Although the Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that separate schools for black and white students were unconstitutional, it was not until the civil rights movement spurred Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act that change could occur, Tibbs said.
“The Supreme Court can tell you what the law is, but it can’t enforce the law,” Tibbs said. “It can’t make the people do anything. It can’t make the people respect the law.”
Tibbs noted, however, that police and judges who bore tremendous responsibility for enforcing the law were resistant to doing so, at least in the South.
“The police officers were part of the biggest problem in terms of enforcing the decision in Brown versus the Board of Education,” he said. “They were the main ones resisting the inclusion of African Americans in the ways of life at that particular time. It took Congress to legislate something that would apply not only in the Southern states but also all over the whole country.”
Because the Civil Rights Act formed the basis of subsequent efforts to combat discrimination, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Voting Rights Act, Tibbs said, it remains relevant today.