Social Justice and the Birth of a Modern Civil Right Movement

The events of 2014 which begun by the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a national debate that focused on criminal justice, police behavior, and widening inequality in America. More than that, they also gave birth to an energetic and passionate civil rights movement in America.

The killing of Eric Garner in New York which was videotaped added to the many questions the public was asking on the issue of social tensions. A well-coordinated network of millennial activists started resurfacing and in 2014, the force of the new social justice movement became real. The political mainstream which had for quite some time ignored the calls for the rising social injustice gradually stated reckoning with the new civil rights movement.

The New versus the Old

Compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the new reenergized millennial movement is unique in a number of ways.

Social Media Driven

For instance, this movement is driven more by social media and hashtags than open air rallies and marches. Instead of getting hold of a mega phone and spearheading a movement, young people of color have taken on Twitter and leveraged the magnifying effect and wider reach of social media. The stories of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin have been magnified through the help of twitterverse.

A Broader Agenda

The new civil rights movement has a much wider agenda compared to the earlier movement. Currently, the movement includes the LGBTQ community and those pushing for immigration reforms. Among the issues that concern the young grassroots activists include educational inequalities, school to prison pipeline, over-policing of the Latino and black communities among others. Simply put, the modern movement is taking on deeply entrenched discrimination issues instead of just systematic biases.

Generational Rift

The renewal of the civil rights movement has revealed a bottom up approach where young unknowns are taking up the leadership of the various groups. The older activists are kind of taking a backseat and a more conservative approach that is way different from what the younger generation perceives.

The Fannie Lou Hamer-Ella Baker Model

The younger activists are inclined to the Fannie Lou Hamer-Ella Baker Model which is an approach that encourages grassroots activism with a widely diffused agency. Baker, though a lesser known personality was one of the most influential strategists in the civil rights era. She assisted in founding the Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The idea of Baker is that democracy needs to be participatory and not just around a few leaders or a personality. She advocates for a kind of leadership where the spokespeople and leaders are not visible beyond the group. It’s some sort of a leaderless movement.

The reason explaining the resurgence of the civil rights movement, but with new energy is the fact that the American society is going back to the earlier days of segregation. Despite the Brown v. Board of Education, Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing Act, the racial gaps that were once narrowing, are now gradually becoming gaping chasms.



The Gains of the Civil Rights Movement and What the Modern Society Can Learn

The civil rights movement in the United States has a long official storyline that runs from Montgomery to Memphis, from the bus boycott in 1955 all the way to the final struggle and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. The shock, rage, and grief that ensued thereafter laid the foundation of a more aggressive and robust civil rights movement in the United States.

Weeks following the death of Martin Luther, the Memphis sanitation workers achieved a landmark victory and vindicated Martin Luther and the cause he was championing.

The Mid-1960s Civil Rights Legislation

With the benefit of hindsight, we now have a clear picture of when the real struggle to win equal treatment started. After the legislative victories, most notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964, public accommodations including bus stations and lunch counters were opened and job segregations were progressively broken down.

The Act also outlawed discrimination in employment opportunities and this resulted in workers being included in higher paying jobs and being considered for promotions. Hundreds of black workers took it upon themselves to improve conditions within their existing jobs. For instance, hospital workers revolutionized the public sector and created more opportunities for African American men and women.

As the blacks were gaining new access to previously white dominated institutions, the struggle for freedom moved from the streets into institutions. In college campuses for instance, African American students fought for programs and financial aid policies that opened up educational possibilities for children of lower-income families.

Confrontation of New Issues and Forging of Alliances

Realizing the formidable force brought about by unity and togetherness, the 1960s civil rights movements embarked on coalition building with similar groups that were victims of inequality and discrimination.

Blacks, Asian Americans and Latinos joined hands and took part in campaigns to promote substantive equal treatment and chances in life. In the 1970s, Third World Coalitions started emerging pushing for ethnic studies programs, open admissions, and affirmative action.

Inequality Hurdles despite Legislative Victories

Even with the relevant laws in place, the efforts to promote inclusion and equity in the American society still faced enormous obstacles. The slavery which lasted over two and a half centuries as well as the more than a hundred years of discrimination had left deep cracks and imprints on virtually every American institution.

Every industry where African American worked had its own deep-seated occupational segregation mechanisms that created a disadvantaged black workforce. The housing market was no exception with remnants of restrictive covenants barring the people of color from accessing them.

The Cultural Impact of the Civil Rights Movement

Tremendous intellectual and cultural creativity was sparked by the 1960s legislative victories. The Black Arts movement created a literature renaissance particularly in art, theater, dance, and music. Led by scholars including John Hope Franklin, the black history became a dynamic field that attracted lots of intellectuals.

It is these post-1960s efforts that ultimately opened a pathway for Barrack Obama to ascend to power in 2008 amidst disbelief from the wider American and global society.

The New Civil Right Movement – What are the Priorities?

The decade of the 1960s is often deemed by some observers as the high watermark in civil rights movement. The decades after saw a change in emphasis and tactics, provoking some scholars and columnists to question whether the priorities have shifted from civil rights promotion to other issues in the society.

Lots of liberals are of the viewpoint that blacks should not assume public positions on issues such as tax policy, energy, and unemployment. Instead, their focus and concentration should be on the moral obligation to secure civil rights for minorities.

At one time, the New York Times put a similar argument in its editorial which said that black leaders are increasingly assuming economic issues while ignoring the real agenda that informed the founding of the movement.

Adjusting Strategies with the Times

Changing conditions require that tactics and strategies should be adjusted also. In the 1960s, the main objective of the black community was to achieve equality which the law had denied them for so long. Their goals were much simpler; to sit anywhere on the bus, to eat at the lunch counter, and to drink clean water, check into a hotel, and vote just like the rest. The representatives were known and the issues were clear cut.

The modern chapter of civil rights movement has bigger challenges than clamoring for the basic civil rights which were won through legislation, executive powers, and judicial decisions over 5 decades ago. For instance, black people can be able to check into a hotel today without any discrimination, but the challenge is, the wherewithal to check out.

The famous 1963 March in Washington DC was for jobs and freedom. To a larger extent, the basic legal rights were won, but jobs are still a problem to the black community. This means the question of whether concerns for housing, health, urban policies, and other issues are still part of civil rights is misplaced because they were from the beginning.

The Concern of Improving Life Chances

Black people continue to struggle even today because from the word go, they were placed on a lower track where they had to fight for survival. The rights which were granted in the 1960s are literally hollow unless they are matched with opportunity and skills to enable African Americans, Latinos, and Hispanics to compete on the same platform as the whites.

The modern civil rights movement is simply saying that the American society should understand that black people are after equality in real life and not just legislation in law books which covers the undercurrent of racism.

The single line that connects the civil rights movement has never and will never change even in the years to come until the barriers are lowered and the blacks are in a position to pursue equal opportunities in all areas of life.

The strategies the black civil rights movement must be committed to develop now should be around modern issues such as metropolitan government and the internal regulation of both the federal and state agencies. The battleground has shifted from the street corners to computer room where real data is examined and shared.