A Racist Congressman Tries To Sabotage The Civil Rights Act, Ends Up Advancing Racial And Gender Equality
Cecil Stoughton/White House Press Office
The United States of the early 1960s was a racist place, and Virginia was perhaps the racistest. So it's no surprise that, as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barreled down the tracks toward Enactment Station, one Virginia congressman was intent on derailing that son of a bitch by any means necessary. That congressman's name was Howard W. Smith, and we can sum up pretty much everything you need to know about the guy in three words: "apologist for slavery." OK, four: "segregationist."
OK, five: "turtley."
Obviously, an act that promised to end discrimination based on "race, color, religion, or national origin" posed a threat to the sensibilities of a man like Smith on like three or four different levels. So how could he throw a big ol' bigot-wrench in its gears? Simple: by adding one more, tiny word to that list: "sex." Not as in "everyone is entitled to equal amounts of it" but as in "women get equal rights too."
Now, as you can probably guess, Smith didn't give two shits and a ham sandwich about women's rights. This wasn't his way of squeezing one desirable outcome out of a bill that he saw as the downfall of his entire belief system -- it was his way of splitting the vote. He knew that there was a large contingent of members who were all for maintaining a dong-advantaged society, and adding women to the act was a way to make it sound so ridiculous that on-the-fence congressmen would Humpty Dumpty right down to the "no" side of the yard.
United States House of Representatives
If he really wanted division he should have just included something about pizza-topping preference.