Thursday, August 9, 2007

Is a National Blog a "Public Accomodation"?

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If a national blog is a open to the general public is a "public accommodation," then discrimination at such blogs should be unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If not, then we need a new civil rights act that would make it illegal for a blog with millions in circulation to discriminate against minorities.

Before the Civil Rights act of 1964, it was considered a right of all Americans to deny Blacks access to restaurants, buses, hotels, schools and other private accommodations because, after all, "they're private!" There's really no difference between that and the assertion that blogs with 3,000,000 circulation are "private" and therefore can discriminate against Black people at will. This is why we can NEVER accept the proposition that because an institution is private it therefor has right to discriminate against Blacks.

What little research I did a few months back tells me that the courts have not decided the degree to which websites and blogs of various types and descriptions are "public accommodations" under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or under some other law, regulation or precedent. This means that it is far to early to concede that national blogs can discriminate against Blacks at will.

Before 1964, restaurants, hotels, bars and buses were often owned by private citizens who considered it their right to exclude Black people. But, then an act of Congress took that dubious "right" away, declaring that interstate commerce was negatively affected by discrimination against Black people.

The same logic applies to blogs in my opinion, although the law has not yet recognized it. If blogs can exclude Black people on the basis of race, why shouldn't newspapers just rename themselves "The New York Times Blog" and "ABC Blog" and then declare that no Black people can participate as actors, writers, executives and etc.?

This is what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says:

(a) Equal access
All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of
the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and
accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in
this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground
of race, color, religion, or national origin.
(b) Establishments affecting interstate commerce or supported in
their activities by State action as places of public
accommodation; lodgings; facilities principally engaged in
selling food for consumption on the premises; gasoline stations;
places of exhibition or entertainment; other covered
Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a
place of public accommodation within the meaning of this subchapter
if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or
segregation by it is supported by State action:

Frankly, I haven't researched my legal theory enough yet to know
if it's a viable legal theory based on the law and the precedents, but it seems to me that the logic is sound.

It's a dangerous precedent for Blacks to concede that an online newspaper (like DailyKos) with 3,000,000 daily circulation can ban Black people outright. It creates a new loophole for systemic discrimination that whites will NOT ignore. And as online communication becomes increasingly important, being left out will mean being left back. What if blogs replace newspapers as the second or third most popular source of news and information?

McDonalds is "someone else's house," so why should they let Black people in unless they want to? Privately own universities are "someone else's house" so where do Black people get off demanding to have their admissions applications considered without discrimination? Fact is, until the Civil Rights Acts on 1964 and 1965, many of these "private" institutions were considered off-limits to Blacks, just as many blogs are now.

BET, ABC and NBC are privately owned, so they "somebody else's rug," aren't they? What gives us the right to tell NBC and ABC what programming they can have and to demand that Black voices be heard on these networks? The New York Times is also "somebody else's rug," somebody else's house. Once you accept that whites have a right to publish whatever they want on their own media organs, you have to accept that we have no right to demand that ABC, NBC, CBS or BET change their programming simply because we don't like it. We can just stop watching it, can't we?

The truth is, we cannot afford to cede the media to others, because it is working on the public against our interests even when we are ignoring it. Every campaign we have will be played against a public backdrop that consists of ALL of the media that influences public opinion.

The New York Times operates a public blog, as do the Washington Post and other newspapers. If they suddenly decide to ban all Black voices and not allow criticism of segregationists, will we REALLY sit back and accept that under the theory that it's someone else's house?

Optimally, Congress would step in and legislate in this area, saying that any blog that holds itself open to the public and depends upon publicly financed Internet infrastructure must admit members without discrimination. In addition, the Democratic Party could decide that blogs are effectively political organs of the party and that public blogs that discriminate will not be permitted to engage in Democratic Party politics.

1 comment:

Ross said...

Koz is CIA. and Another Day in the Empire