The Unyielding Path of the Civil Rights Movement: From Struggle to Equality
The Evolution of the Civil Rights Movement:
Many people debate whether America gives its citizens hope for the future, especially those who are minorities and those discriminated against. There are many civil rights that people are entitled to, but there has been much discrimination over the History of the United States. Much of this discrimination has been to minorities of ethnicity, religion, and those who are gay or disabled. Women have also had to endure much discrimination over the History of the country. However, America gives all of its citizens hope for the future, especially today, because we continue to strive for a better tomorrow.
LGBTQ+ Rights: A Century of Progress:
Gay rights have been a point of contention in the United States, which has grown significantly bigger over the past century. There are many things that fall under this umbrella, such as LGBTQ; L being lesbian meaning women who like other women. G being gay means men that like other men. B being bisexual, someone who likes both men and women. T being transexual or someone who goes from being one gender to another.
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It seems hard to imagine, but it was less than 100 years ago, in 1924, that the first gay rights organization was founded, known as the Society for Human Rights. This had an underground name so that way people would not expect it to be a gay rights organization because, at the time, it would not have been accepted by the general public like it is today. However, it was not all good over that because, in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder.
It’s hard to imagine that still 30 years after they founded the first gay rights organization, homosexuals can still be called sociopathic. In fact, it got even worse a year later. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order banning any gay people from working in the federal government. This must have been devastating, and it would be hard to imagine this happening today. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
In 1975 there was a federal gay rights bill to address discrimination based on sexual orientation. While this was good, a dark day was still on its way. That day was February 28th, 1993. On that day, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was passed. This was disguised as a step forward, and in some ways, it allowed people who were gay to serve in the military. However, it also meant if you were openly gay, you would get kicked out. At the time, this may have seemed like a huge improvement. However, today, it’s almost unthinkable, and the worst thing was it didn’t get repealed until 2011, which meant it was still around only seven years ago.
The good news is in 2003, the largest court in Massachusetts said that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This was very divisive at the time, even among state officials, as Governor Mitt Romney said he had “3000 years of history on his side.” However, this did little to stop it from being legalized. May 18th, 2004, was the first day of legalized gay marriage anywhere in the United States, and a little over ten years later, on June 26th, 2015, the banning of gay marriage was deemed unconstitutional at a national level by the Supreme Court and is now legalized in all 50 states. The country has come a very long way in less than 100 years.
Historical Struggles and Triumphs of Racial and Gender Equality:
Another group of people that are discriminated against are those of a different race. This has been true for people of all races throughout History, but especially the blacks. This is apparent with slavery, not being able to vote, and other basic freedoms that were denied to black people. One such example was the Dred Scott decision of 1857 which said that all black people, free or slave, are “Subordinate and inferior beings.”
However, there was a bright day on the first day of the new year, January 1st, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the height of the Civil War, effectively giving the rebelling states three months to rejoin the union or their slaves would be freed and allowed to fight in the northern army. While this technically didn’t free any slaves right away because the South was not under President Lincoln’s control, it still made there a beacon of hope for the slaves in the South, especially if the North was to win the war as they eventually did.
Then around three years later, the 13th Amendment passed, and slavery was officially abolished from all of the United States. Within the next five years, the 14th and 15th Amendments were passed in 1868 and 1870, respectively. The 14th granted equal protection under the law, and the 15th gave blacks the right to vote, including former slaves. The 15th Amendment said, “The right of citizens in the United States to vote shall not be denied by the United States or by any state on race, color or previous condition of servitude.
There was what should have been a step forward in 1875 with the Civil Rights Act, which said white business owners had to have all facilities open to black people. However, the government really did not enforce it for 100 years, and black people still were not allowed in most places. It’s hard to believe that even with a federal law being passed, people did not enforce this law. Over time, groups began to form that fought for the right of black Americans, such as the NAACP in 1909. This group, The NAACP, continues to advocate for people of color to this day by representing and hiring lawyers to help represent blacks in cases for those who cannot afford them.
Halfway through the 20th century, civil rights Supreme Court cases started to come up. One of the more important ones was Brown vs. The Board of Education which was a battle to try to let a black girl attend an all-white school in an attempt at desegregation. This was big because, eventually, the girl was able to attend the all-white school. Another big event was when a black woman named Rosa Parks tried to sit in the white section of a bus in Alabama in 1955.
A year later, in 1956, there was a Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of Rosa Parks, saying that Alabama’s racial discrimination laws for buses were unconstitutional. This all led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, while not enforced right away, was enforced more quickly and effectively than the first Civil Rights Act. This was a huge victory. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states.”
Another marginalized group over the years has been women. One example of this came in 1777 when a law was passed that nationwide women could not vote, and it would be 92 years later, in 1869, before the first women’s suffrage law was passed in the United States. This law was passed in Wyoming, and even that was not statewide as that would be passed in 1890 in the same state.
Over the course of the next 30 years, more and more states slowly began to give women the right the vote, and in 1920, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 19th Amendment that “The rights of citizens of the United States shall not be denied or abridged by any state on account of sex.” Many women celebrated this accomplishment, one of whom was Susan B. Anthony when she said, “No self-respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her.”
Women, however, were still not completely equal, as they did not get equal pay in a lot of instances. This was until Congress passed the equal pay act and was signed into effect by President John F. Kennedy. Over time the United States has continued to push forward for women’s rights.
Rights for the Disabled and Religious Minorities:
Another forgotten group that has been discriminated against and has had a hard time getting recognition is people with various disabilities. These people have been forgotten about over time and continue to be ignored to this day. However, there have been some slight pushes to move forward for people with disabilities.
The first big event in helping disabled people was when the Amer School for The Deaf was founded in 1817. This was a huge step forward that allowed people with hearing disabilities to function as productive members of society. Then another huge event happened in 1832 when very similarly, the Perkins School for The Blind admitted its first two students. Then in 1869, the first wheelchair patent was registered, which was huge, especially for former military veterans who lost their legs in combat. Then, in 1933, a disabled president who was in a wheelchair, FDR, was sworn into the presidency. However, it was kept hidden from the public, and he was very rarely photographed in the wheelchair, and FDR tried to keep it a secret from the public.
However, a lot of people still did know, so this was still a great step forward. In 1964, when the previously-mentioned Civil Rights Act was passed, it bypassed people with disabilities and did not do anything to help them progress or to help them be productive members of society. However, another huge step forward was in 1962 when Eunice Kennedy-Shriver organized a summer camp for children with disabilities and was a huge advocate for people with disabilities, leading to the first Special Olympics being hosted in Chicago in 1968. This gave people with disabilities the chance to compete in healthy sporting events in a supportive environment. The motto of Special Olympics was “Let me win, but if I can, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Then in 2004 Chicago continued to be a center for disability rights when they hosted the first disability pride parade. This was finally disabled people taking pride in who they were and not having to be ashamed. Disabled people have come from pretty much being forgotten to having numerous laws and help come their way in just the last 20 years.
One other group that gets discriminated against is those of minority religions. The big group of this is the post-9/11 Muslims. There have been many hate crimes committed against Muslims. However, one of the biggest issues with post-9/11 Muslims came when President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, or Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. This was a ban on Muslims that has been fought about to this day and is currently going through the Supreme Court. Trump even described the order as “A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Religious discrimination against Muslims is a long way from going away. However, the country continues to move forward every day.
Some people would argue and say that America does not give hope for the future, especially to minority groups such as people of different races, sexual orientations, religions, and those who are a woman or disabled. These people would say that these groups of people have to face discrimination on a daily basis and are not treated fairly.
People say that people who are of a different sexual orientation are treated unfairly. However, many people who are of these sexual orientations disagree and believe they are given hope for the future. This is because same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States for years now and shows no signs of becoming illegal again. In fact, only one county in the United States still refuses to grant same-sex marriage.
In fact, 67% of Americans say they support gay marriage Madhani, Aamer. “Poll: Approval of Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S. Reaches New High.” And the majority are for it in 44 of the 50 states according to NBC News. The six states that oppose are all above 40% support, and only one of those states say they are against it than for it, and that is in Alabama, where still 41% are for it. Every single day more and more Americans are becoming accepting of gay marriage, and the percentage of people for it is rising.
Some people would also say that people of a different race are not given hope for the future. However, most poor black Americans are more optimistic than poor or even middle-class white Americans, according to the BBC. There have also been so many different organizations designed to help black people.
A lot of Americans believe women don’t have hope for the future either. However, America continues to pass laws for women, and women continue to be to gain more and more rights, including being allowed to join the military and several women in Congress. Women continue to move forward every single day.
Disabled people also have hope for the future because there are so many organizations to help them, even that are government funded, and there continue to be laws put into place that help them be productive and functional members of society. These programs range from helping them live normal lives, getting homes and jobs, and helping them financially.
Last but not least religious discrimination is irrefutable because up to 9/10 Muslims feel proud to be American, according to recent polls.
So, in the end, America does give all of its’ citizens hope for the future. Whether you are a minority or not, America gives you hope for the future by continuing to fight discrimination every single day.
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- “History.” A&E Television Networks, LLC. https://www.history.com/.
- “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy, Inc. https://www.khanacademy.org/.
- “Detailed Timeline.” National Women’s History Project. www.nwhp.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/detailed-timeline/.
- “History Timeline.” Youth Organizing! Disabled & Proud. http://www.yodisabledproud.org/organize/docs/PRIDE/5_High_School/Unit_3_High/3_1h-History_Timeline.pdf.
- “LGBT Rights Milestones Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, April 1st, 2018. www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/us/lgbt-rights-milestones-fast-facts/index.html.
- Suarez. “Looking Back at the Legalization of Gay Marriage in Mass.” The Boston Globe, June 26th, 2015. www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/26/looking-back-legalization-gay-marriage-mass/uhCeyrSeJtWty9tSUde1PI/story.html.