The Strange Career of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
The Segregation of Racial and
The nation responded to the Alabama events with the Civil Rights Act, introduced in 1963 and signed into law in 1964. Implementing Title VII, the provision banning employment discrimination, would preoccupy the uswa and the steel industry for the next ten years. 1 The union had been a constant champion; the industry, with the rest of the business community, thought Title VII was unnecessary, but did not actively oppose it. Thus, it was ironic that the law bedeviled the union as well as the company. The source of the problem was that Title VII was intellectually thin and its enforcement instrument, the Economic Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc), powerless. Title VII prohibited employment discrimination but did not tackle the structural sources of black unemployment. The eeoc could talk, but not act. Title VII was enforced by private lawsuits, which prolonged and hardened conflicts. In 1972, when eeoc obtained the power to file lawsuits, it simply followed paths laid out earlier.
Those paths had returned the ignored structural issues to the agenda under the guise of an expanded definition of racial discrimination. Litigation in steel addressed situations where, despite the abolition of racial rules, modernization and shrinking employment had combined to produce less change than reformers had originally envisioned. To meet this situation, civil rights lawyers expanded the idea of racial discrimination to justify policies designed to protect blacks from the results of automation, poor education, and structural