Vanderbilt Law Review


D. Marvin Jones

First Page



It is incredible that our people's faith could have brought them so much they sought in the law and left them with so little they need in life. It is so unfair. Like the crusaders of old we sought our Holy Grail of "equal opportunity," and having gained it in court decisions and civil rights statutes, found the quest to be for naught. Equal opportunity, far from being the means of achieving racial equality, has become yet another device for perpetuating the racial status quo.'

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was hailed as the most important legislation of the twentieth century. And within the deep symbolism of our civil rights discourse this, of course, was true. Title VII represented not merely a set of antidiscrimination rules, but a break with history. It was both a centerpiece and an emblem of a kind of second reconstruction in which America determined to rise above the racism of the past and to resurrect ideals dormant since inception. If discrimination in the workplace was a stone in the path of national progress, Title VII would be the instrument by which it was rolled away.

Title VII reflected for America a new sense of national identity, an America no longer ambivalent about who it included or what its values were. It was thus both a vehicle for legal prohibitions and a celebration of moral rebirth. It served both as law and as a ceremony of redemption.