Civil Rights in America

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jessica Tabor
  • 28th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity Office
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act - an act passed in 1964, which alongside title VII, prohibits the discrimination of an individual based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability and genes.

The CRA was designed to end racial segregation in public places. Congress established Black History Month in 1976. This occurred over 10 years after the monumental passing of the CRA.

In addition to the anniversary of the CRA, February is also the anniversary of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. From the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, to the 1963 March on Washington and the passing of the CRA, African Americans continue to bridge the racial divide that still exists today.

Before the passing of the CRA, overt discrimination was rampant in the U.S. Racial segregation created a separation in restaurants, schools and society for Americans. African Americans and other minorities were dealing with barriers in regards to economic opportunities and employment.

Though allowed to vote, barriers placed by laws reduced the presence of African Americans and other minorities in voting booths.

In 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act passed in Congress, President John F. Kennedy said, "This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the population that you can't have that right; that your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go in the street and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that."

Fifty years later, overt discrimination still exists; however, covert discrimination is on the rise. This is evident through statistical data. African Americans make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, but only 18 percent of college graduates are African American, compared to 64 percent who are Caucasian American.

African Americans are three times more likely than Caucasian Americans to be searched by police, handcuffed and arrested than. In 2009, almost 44 million Americans lived in poverty - 28 percent of which were African Americans. Among them, the unemployment rate was 13 percent, double the national average.

Thought by many Americans to be outdated, racism persists; from the surface, there appears to be equality. Based on their race, one in three African Americans feel they are unfairly treated. The fight for equality is never ending and efforts should be made on all accounts to continue to eliminate the barriers created by race. The past 50 years of education, media, and laws have been instrumental in changing biases based on race.

Without the CRA, today's society would be behind the rest of the world. Women would lose their jobs due to pregnancy and institutional segregation would still exist. The Americans with Disabilities Act mimicked the structure of the CRA. Without it, there would be no handicapped stalls or ramps providing easy access into buildings. The CRA was landmark legislation, and opened the door to many rights Americans still enjoy today.

It's now time to look 50 years into the future and continue our efforts to build true equality.