Racism Is a Right

by Bill St. Clair, 21 November 2016

The title of this piece is likely to make lots of heads explode. If yours is exploding, it's probably because my definitions of "racist" and "right" are different from yours. So please bear with me, while I tell you what I mean. Then judge away. Judging, another name for discrimination, is also a right.

This essay has two main points:

  1. Entitlements are not rights.
  2. Enforcing the Civil Rights Act on private businesses by calling them "public accomodations" was a despicable usurpation of private property rights.

What Is a Right?

So what is a right? This quote is probably as close to my understanding as I've encountered.

"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -- P. J. O'Rourke

But let's touch on two oft-quoted lists of "rights". First, the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. When I need to find the exact wording of a particular amendment, I use my copy, billstclair.com/usdocs/bor.html

Then there's the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is quite a bit longer than the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights really says nothing about the actual rights of we the people. It is a list of proscriptions on what the state may do. A list of things that the state may not legislate. Limitations on state power. It lists pre-existing rights, which are independent of the Constitution or Bill of Rights, and ensures that the state will preserve and protect them. And it includes, in Amendments 9 and 10, rights not explicitly mentioned.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts out well. Up through Article 21 I agree with it, and it is similar to the Bill of Rights. Article 30 is also OK, in so far as it refers to Articles 1 through 21. Other than that, though, it is socialistic, granting "rights" that imply duties for unnamed others to provide for.

To my mind, all proper rights are negative. A right is something that nobody else may properly stop you from doing.

Something that you are guaranteed, but can only have if someone else provides it, is not a right. That is an entitlement. That is socialism.

This means that there is no right to work, food, shelter, clothing, health care, education, or equal pay for equal work. You have the right to obtain those things through your own effort, and to enter into contracts concerning them, but only if you can do so peacefully. You do NOT have the right to force anyone else to provide them for you, no matter how many people vote for it. That is theft, a crime. Legislation cannot magically transform theft into non-crime.

This is severely at odds with "progressive" values. It is one of the big divisive issues in the US today. Many socialist countries provide these things for their citizens. I do not want to the United States to be a socialist country. So I don't care whether some entitlement is provided by some other country. I don't live there, and I don't want to live there. I'm loathe to grant the state even the powers explicitly listed in the US Constitution, with the most narrow interpretations possible.

What Is Racism?

I'll quote the Merriam-Webster online definition:

noun | rac·ism | \ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm also -ˌshi-\

1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 a: a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b: a political or social system founded on racism

3: racial prejudice or discrimination

I consider it racist to make decisions about your relationship with people based entirely on parts of their appearance over which they have no control, usually skin color, but sometimes manerisms. Though there are certainly statistical correlations between race and intelligence (asians > jews > caucasians > latinos > blacks), and between race and criminal prediliction (blacks really do commit more crimes, at least in the US), the standard deviation is so large that, unless you're stupid, you need to judge each individual on his or her individual merits.

Pre-judging people based on gait (e.g. "pimp roll"), accent, or dress can also be racist, but those are more often correlated with actual behavior, so I consider them to be less stupid.

Racism Made Illegal

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce."

The Civil Rights Act also banned discrimination by the state. I think that's good and proper.

The courts upheld Title II. I consider it to be a gross and despicable usurpation of private property rights, and a huge misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause. It opened the door to smoking regulations, and to cake baking requirements, and has basically made businesses de facto property of the state, usurping their de jure owners.

Something is your property if you have sole decision-making power over its use. That means business owners should be able to decide who they will sell to, what clothing is required to enter their business, whether smoking is allowed, or required, whether weapons are allowed on their property, or required, everything. People who don't like their rules don't have to use their businesses. People who really don't like their rules, can organize boycotts of their businesses.

(Taxes usurp property rights similarly, but that's not the focus of this essay).

I realize that in the south, before the Civil Rights Act, it was difficult for black people to find a place to eat, or to pee. Tough. Open your own businesses. If somebody aggresses to stop you, then you have valid recourse to the courts. Otherwise, it is not your right to force anyone to serve you.

Corporations are creatures of the state, so I can see stricter rules for them. Some usurpation of their property rights is validated by the state's protection of stockholders from liability.


Since I find it despicable to make racial discrimination illegal for private businesses, racism is their right.

I don't like racism, and I think business owners are stupid to do it. The consequences of practicing racism are likely to be severe. Their profitability will likely suffer for it, but stupidity isn't a crime. They should be able to run their businesses however stupidly they desire. And I'll happily join in boycotts of businesses that mistreat people because of the color of their skin.

I want two changes to culture and law:

  1. Recognition that all rights are negative. Entitlements are not rights.
  2. Removal of Title II from the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

comments home