HERO and Jim Crow

In 2014, Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which prohibited discrimination on the basis of fifteen “protected characteristics,” such as military status, age, gender identity, and race. But less than one hundred years ago, a different set of ordinances forced Houstonians to discriminate.

Through the first half of the twentieth century, the Jim Crow laws forced Houstonians to treat blacks differently than whites. Segregation was mandatory in schools, libraries, trolley cars, and other public accommodations. (Interestingly, preservationists never mention this part of Houston’s heritage.)

Racism is immoral, and government imposed racism is doubly so. But that does not justify efforts to eliminate racism (or any form of irrational discrimination) through legislation. The immorality in both instances is the same.

The Jim Crow laws forced whites to treat blacks as second-class citizens, no matter an individual’s own judgment. Certainly, there were many racist whites, but those who were not were prohibited by law from acting on their rational judgment.

Laws such as HERO force individuals to treat everyone the same, no matter an individual’s own judgment. Certainly, there are many enlightened individuals, but those who are not enlightened are prohibited by law from acting on their irrational judgment.

Government should not be judging the rationality or irrationality of an idea. If that were the case, most politicians would be incarcerated. Government’s only proper purpose is the protection of individual rights—the freedom of each individual to act on his own judgment, so long as he respects the rights of others to do the same. Government should protect an individual’s right to hold irrational ideas and act on them to the extent that he does not use force or fraud against others.

No amount of legislation can force an individual to be rational. Government should quit trying to end irrational discrimination and allow the unenlightened to live the miserable lives they so richly deserve.

2 comments to HERO and Jim Crow

  • Olga Lankford

    Interesting article. Even the irrational have rights in the USA. They should not stomp on the rights of anyone else’s rights in acting on their opinions. I am glad we are free to state our opinions.