Civil Rights Movements’ Role in Achieving Equality

The US to date still grapples with issues of racism being directed at the minority communities by the white majority. The Blacks have born the biggest brunt of the problem. In the case of the Blacks, racism dates back to the slave era during the European settlement and occupation of North America in the 17th century. The law gave certain rights to the Whites while denying Blacks the same. The Whites were the ones in charge of the country and its means of production. They saw themselves as being naturally superior to the Blacks and as such expected them to submit to their wishes. Slavery was the epitome of racism. Even though the practice was abolished, the move was not accompanied with an end to racism. The Whites continued to deny Blacks equal rights and would severely punish anyone who demanded their rights. The injustices facing Blacks united them in an initiative to fight off White-supremacism. Their efforts saw some gradual improvement that was, however, not enough. Significant progress was achieved in 1964 when President Lyndon signed into law the Civil Rights Act, a decision upheld by the country’s Supreme Court (Klarman, 1994). The passage of the Act marked a significant step in the right directions despite not offering a complete solution to equality issues. An exploration of the role of the civil rights movements from the 1950s will help in tracing their progress in achieving economic, political and social equality and freedom despite continued opposition to its objectives.

Even though the economic situation for the Blacks in the US has improved over the years, economic equality remains a challenge for many Blacks. The movements have tried to weaken structural issues in the economic system that continue to pose a challenge for the African-American populace. The level of investment that was made in building the facilities for the Whites, helping their companies grow to unimaginable proportions accounts for much of the success that they enjoy today. They had cheaper labor provided for by the Blacks who today have to try to equal their performance in a time when the environment does not offer the same opportunities for them. The financial power within the White circles enables them to influence the direction of the economy in a way favoring the Whites who are the majority (Hall, 2005). Some Whites have blamed failure by Blacks on laziness. What they fail to acknowledge is that when a Black person makes a significant economic step, he still has his family that needs to be uplifted out of poverty. The effect of this is that they are forced to divert a significant portion of their income into lifting their family out of poverty as opposed to investing such money in growing their wealth. The situation is just an example that depicts a White mindset that the civil society movement has had to deal with over time achieving some level of success.

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Statistics point to a worrying picture of widespread inequality in access to opportunities across different aspects of life in the US more than fifty years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, an issue that the civil rights movement has sought to deal with through labor union movements and various advocacy initiates. About wage, Blacks tend to receive at least twenty percent less pay for the same work done by their White counterparts. Very few Blacks hold top positions in the blue chip companies. They seem to rise to certain levels after which they stagnate and retire without further promotion. Within the same level as the Whites, they have less bargaining power. For a Black person to receive a major promotion, they need to have extraordinary skills and achievement unlike the case for others who may be promoted based merely on their experience on the job (Beggs, 1995). As a result, many tend to be disillusioned and as such fail to explore their full potential. Where they have an equal qualification to that of a White person, they do not stand a chance for consideration. Ella Baker in her fight for equal treatment had envisioned a situation whereby no black would be denied an opportunity based on the color of their skin. However, some Whites have devised clever ways of circumventing the law and implement racist strategies that continue to see widespread segregation that inhibit the achievement of the objectives set forth by the civil rights movements in the 1950s. Work boycott and street protests have helped minimize on such incidences.

The civil rights movement has sought to correct the political system since it is one of the major areas where things are skewed against the Blacks (Sullivan, 2009). Democracy does not guarantee equal treatment for every person. Rather, it lets the majority have their say while the minorities hope that their voices will receive consideration. Democracy is designed in such a way that it gives power to those with the highest number of votes. With such power, they can do anything they find convenient for them as long as they all agree on it. With a majority of the American citizens being White, the Blacks stand minimal chances of having their issues handled democratically. Often, they are coerced by the Whites into voting in a particular direction if they wish to have some of their wishes granted. Such conditional consideration ensures a continued suppression of their freedom despite the postulations in the constitution. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) notes in one of its articles that Black voters are increasingly becoming alienated and frustrated given the fact their numbers cannot match up to those of the Whites. Some of their leaders tend to be convinced into entering postelection agreements that curtail their power and voice both in Congress and the Senate. The Whites are as such the biggest beneficiaries of most of the legislation that Congress passes. The SLCC and NAACP have encouraged the unification of all Black voters to ensure that they all vote in the same direction, for the same candidates, and under a single party. The Democratic Party has been the biggest beneficiary of the move and has in return tried to ensure that it pushes for forth a significant proportion of the interests of the Blacks. The 2004 nomination of a Black person to run for president marked the climax of such initiatives.

NAACP acknowledges the need to work with the majority of Whites in achieving most of its social objectives; as such, it has taken steps that have seen positive progress. One of the ways has been through its support of other minority groups that have huge White membership such as LGBT that advocates for the rights of lesbians and gay persons. The groups have in return reciprocated through their support for Black-led initiatives. Critics of the move, some of them being from the Black community and churches across the US, have questioned the efficacy of the move showing their dissatisfaction in the evolving objectives of the civil rights movements. However, the leadership of the NAACP movement has come out strongly to defend their position arguing that understanding the nature of other people and their needs and respect for the way they are conditioned shows that one has tolerance. It is the same tolerance that Blacks expect from the Whites and as such should lead by example. The NAACP believes that by failing to support the rights of such person, one would be practicing double standards in fighting for their rights. The civil rights movements have benefitted immensely from mutual agreements with other political parties given their role as a crucial group that holds the swing vote in most national elections (Berg & Smith, 2005).

Clearly, the civil rights movement has played a huge role in achieving equality for all people despite some opposition to some of its objectives. The movement has pushed for affirmative action that ensures Blacks have a way to work to better their lives. Initiatives such as educational scholarships, bursaries, work training and skill development programs for the minorities have helped the Blacks to stand a better chance of advancing their careers and accessing more opportunities in the economy. The results of the activities of the movements can be seen in increased success among Blacks to a new level. A good number of Blacks are increasingly growing their wealth to great proportions. There is a need to support the needs of the civil rights movements for greater outcomes in the future.

 

References

Beggs, John J. (1995). The institutional environment: Implications for race and gender inequality in the US labor market. American Sociological Review, 60, 612-633. https://doi.org/10.2307/2096297

Berg, M., & Smith, J. D. (2005). The ticket to freedom: The NAACP and the struggle for black political integration. University Press of Florida.

Hall, J. D. (2005). The long civil rights movement and the political uses of the past. The Journal of American History, 91(4), 1233-1263. https://doi.org/10.2307/3660172

Klarman, M. J. (1994). Brown, racial change, and the civil rights movement. Virginia Law Review, 80, 7-150.

Sullivan, P. (2009). Lift every voice: The NAACP and the making of the civil rights movement. The New Press.