Civil Rights Movement In the United States
The Jim Crow System is a system in and through which the central idea is “differentiation”. This differentiation is done on the basis of ethnicity or race. Differentiation entails the recognition that races are different and as such, it creates a political setting that “separates” races such as the Whites from the Blacks. In addition to this, it also separates and ultimately, limits or confines races such as the Blacks to a social sphere with corresponding social functions that are imposed on them.
The Civil Rights Movement may be seen as a result of such a differentiation and segregation within the social sphere that it reflects the recognition of the unjust and inhumane aspect of such methods of social differentiation and social segregation. After the said movement, it has been argued that racial differentiation and segregation no longer exists within the United States, and due to this [in a sense] the Civil Rights Movement has been successful. However, there are several contentions to such a perspective.
First, the effects of the expedited implementation of civil rights on all facets and areas of society, especially in the North, combined with the break from the traditional means of social integration helped spark the violent white backlash of the 1970’s. The White Backlash is a “reactionary populism” involving the middle, working class moved by a sense of “threat” regarding the policies implemented during the time. Thus, race and racism are not to be seen as the main factors involved for they cannot account for the White Backlash in a manner that is altogether acceptable.
It is of equal importance that we take into consideration the fact that the White’s resistance to the policies implemented during the time was also brought about by a general feeling of threat and the idea of being displaced in their communities. The discussions regarding racial segregation in schools and communities and forced busing further strengthens this point. Another issue of vital importance that may be related to the idea of “gentrification”. This refers to the Whites reactionary stance on the implemented policies generated feelings of “threat”; regarding both their sense of security and sense of community.
It is important to note that the very idea and experience of homelessness, being evicted from one’s immediate environment and his or her social and political milieu is degrading for the evicted families and individuals. The aforementioned experience generates feelings of powerlessness, anxiety, and oppression. In American history, gentrification is considered as a mechanism for the revitalization or rehabilitation of the casualties brought about by wars and conflicts both from external and internal threats.
Examples of such destructive courses in history are World War I and World War II. Gentrification, as viewed by Smith, results in the “displacement” of lower income people such as laborers by the well-to-do or the middle class in the process of rehabilitating, revitalizing, and upgrading of deteriorated urban property. “In so far as gentrification obliterates working class communities, displaces poor households and converts whole neighborhoods into bourgeois enclaves, the frontier ideology rationalizes social differentiation and exclusion as natural and inevitable” (Smith, 1992, p. 2). These ideas strengthen the general view that the White Backlash is largely the reaction of the social classes in the middle and lowest strata, the working class White Bostonians since the elites are in his words “exempted from the start”. The feeling of threat and the fear of displacement in their communities, these are important factors to consider as to why the White Backlash occurred. The problem with the frontier ideology and the process of gentrification, as I reckon, is that they pose serious threats on the very notion of a “shared history”.
As the materially-driven real estate industries and markets continue to flourish and the advent of deindustrialization, the easier it displaces low-income people from their immediate social environment, social and political milieu; thus, endangering the very notion of a shared history. In contrast to such claims Weisbrot (1990) claims that although certain forms of injustice still exists what is important to consider are the facets of social change resulting from the aforementioned movement.
He claims, “Like other reform movements the crusade for racial justice inevitably fell short of the utopian goals that sustained it. Still, if… (it) is judged by the distance it traveled…a record of substantial achievement unfolds” (1990, p. 339). Such achievement involve school desegregation and the securing of representation and voting rights. In addition to this, Weisbrot argued that such developments may be seen as the result of the development of tolerance and hence pluralism within the American community.
He claims that as a result of the aforementioned movement, pluralism is “more firmly rooted in American values than ever before” (1990, p. 342). However, the fast-paced implementation [that is, of the recognition of civil rights be regarded as fundamental rights that ought to be granted to every citizen of the state and not only to a selected few, the Whites] unraveled structures and ideologies of society too fast [most importantly the historically embedded ideas of race and class] without providing or setting up new structures for what was unraveled.
This presents the second critique to the assumed success of the Civil Rights Movement. Third, educational equality and racial equality were never achieved in the expedited implementation of the civil rights through desegregation, forced busing and affirmative action policies. The federal government was forcing busing, economics, and housing all at the same time. This leads to Wicker’s point that the problem with the integration plan was how extensive it was and how difficult it was to implement. This is precisely because of the aforementioned reasons, which serve as warrants to my second argument.
The question regarding the expedited implementation of such policies fails to consider that such radical changes will result to devastating consequences. The problem is, so to speak, much more complex. As Wicker suggests, “economic as well as political empowerment if African-American disadvantages…are to be overcome” (1996, p. 347). The problem with the Civil Rights Movement is that it was not universal. It was not universal in the sense that the Blacks themselves are not unified in their struggles for racial justice and liberation.
It was not able to gain an inter-subjective consensus not only from human rights advocates but also most especially from the Blacks themselves. The movement lacks what may be called a unity of purpose which entails unified and collective actions. This is in accordance with Wicker’s argument regarding the failure of the aforementioned movement. Wicker (1996) contends that the Civil Rights Movement failed to enable racial integration due to the “continuing separation of whites and blacks into hostile and unequal classes” which leads to “political deadlock, economic inequity, and social rancor that mark American life” (p. 345).
In summary, although the implementation of civil rights on all facets and areas of society created “changes” on the realms of the social, political, and economic but there remains a question whether such huge and radical changes are “effective” since the phenomenon in itself is deeply embedded in the culture of the American society. True, the American society and its political culture do have problems. In the case of racial and educational equality and the expedited implementation of the civil rights, however, the issues are more intricate. In order for racial inequalities to end, American society must be prepared for huge and radical changes