Struggling for change
Since time immemorial, people from different parts of the world have been struggling and fighting different battles to achieve change. There have been many movements that were initiated to foster transformation in the society, some of them were brought to fruition and are currently flourishing while others are still in their struggle up to the present time. Social movements, which are a type of group action, are carried out by informal groupings of individuals or organizations focused on specific political or social issues. Movements have become feasible through a wider dissemination of information, education and increased mobility of labor due to industrialization and urbanization of societies. The unprecedented number and range of various social movements throughout the course of history were founded because of the attained freedom of expression, edification, and because of the relative economic independence that are prevalent in cultures.
One of the many conflicts that people have been facing is their struggle for achieving their essential rights as citizens to their respective nations. The fight for gaining Civil rights, the yearning of the people in having the right to be treated equally, regardless of their race, gender, or religion, have been apparent numerous times in different places. One concrete example of a group that have wanted attainment of civil rights is the African Americans, or the blacks, of the United States and their struggle was dubbed the Civil Rights Movement.
Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a social, legal and political struggle to achieve full citizenship rights for black Americans and to achieve racial equality. There have been many forms of resistance by the blacks early on even after the abolishment of slavery in the 1860’s yet even after many years they were still treated faultily. The blacks lived in a society where there was a system, the “segregation”, which the white Southerners established to separate the races in every sphere of life and to achieve supremacy over the blacks. In other words, they were kept separate in public places including at theaters, restrooms, schools and even in transportation. Such system that promotes discrimination piloted the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 to push for civil rights. One event that involved a black woman’s arrest, said to have strengthened the initiated Black Movement and propelled NAACP’s advocacy against segregation. Rosa Parks, a member of NAACP in Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested in December 1,1955, when she refused to give her seat in a city bus to a white person. Montgomery’s black community headed by Martin Luther King, Jr then organized a boycott that ended successfully, with virtually unanimous support from the 50,000 blacks in the said community. The boycott lasted for more than a year and such display of audacity sensationalized to the American public the determination of blacks to end racial segregation.
The Montgomery boycott made Martin Luther King, Jr. a national figure. He became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, an association that aimed to complement the NAACP legal strategy by encouraging the use of nonviolent, direct action to protest segregation that incorporated marches, demonstrations, and boycotts. SCLC’s greatest contribution to the civil rights movement was a series of highly publicized protest campaigns in 1960’s. These protests were intended to create such civic disorder that local white officials and business leaders would end segregation in order to restore normal business activity. Some of the protests caused immense turmoil that President John F. Kennedy decided to propose civil rights legislation. The national civil rights leadership then pressured both the Administration and the Congress to pass the civil rights legislation by executing a March on Washington in August 28, 1963. More than 200,000 women and men from all over the U. States converged on Washington, D.C. for the peaceful civil rights demonstration and showed support for a broad civil rights bill. During the demonstration, Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the crowd and described his dream for equality and unity in America.
For many activists and some scholars, the civil rights movement ended in 1968 with the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Some, especially blacks, argue that the movement is not over yet because the goal of full equality has not been achieved. Although full equality has not yet been reached, the civil rights movement did put fundamental reforms in place. Legal segregation as a system of racial control was dismantled and blacks were no longer subjected to the humiliation. Public institutions, like schools and universities, were also open to them and the blacks also achieved the right to vote and the influence that went with that right in a democracy.
Another group that has been trying to achieve rights in America is the Gay Community. The struggle for gay rights has taken on many forms and from the 1950’s to the present many organizations have surfaced to devote to the cause of homosexual liberation. The movement calls for equal rights for gays and entails the abolishment of all anti-homosexual laws, as well as the inclusion of all rights accorded to heterosexuals, such as marriage.
The Mattachine Society, established in the early 1950’s, was the prime example of a gay rights organization that strove to create equal civil rights for homosexuals. The said group laid many vital foundations for the gay civil rights movement but with the surge of the new, more radical groups, the Mattachine shrunk and eventually became nothing more than a counseling center. Because of increase in harassment of gays in public, homosexuals became to see themselves as an oppressed minority group, inciting a new attitude demanding acceptance and not tolerance, employing minority-group politics to attain goals. Such change in scope and attitude triggered a new sense of gay pride, one from which homosexuals drew strength and the willingness to stand up and have their voices heard. Inspired by black and feminist civil rights movements, the new gay groups rejected the typical approach of the 1950’s in favor of an activist ideology focusing on equal rights and direct protest. Various groups emerged such as the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a political pressure group that aims on breaking the invisibility of the gay community caused by fear and bringing gays into the public. The GAA strove to be an active force in politics, worked for tax benefits and fair employment, urged gays to vote, and publicized political candidates’ stances on homosexuals, and even sought to improve the public opinion of gays in the media. Another group, the Gay Liberation Front, surfaced which is a revolutionary group formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. In essence, this organization was convinced that they do not need to fit into American society, but rather that society itself was what needed to be cured and transformed, for it is the society that unjustly oppresses.
Aside from the homosexuals, the women also have their share of struggle in the society, a force emerging, demanding for social change. The momentum of the feminist movement of the earlier decades of the 20th century had waned in the post-World War II decades but work for women’s rights actually continued by core organizations, yet becoming almost an underground resistance to a nearly devastatingly negative media blitz that insisted on proclaiming the death of feminism. However, an event in 1957 brought about the rise of feminism. The Soviet Union demonstrated a challenging superiority in space technology when it launched the first man-made space satellite. Such event triggered the U.S. and the Soviet Union space race, and the demands in the U.S. for skilled and educated workforce rocketed to the point where even women and other minorities constituted the traditional reserve labor force. The National Manpower Council published in the same year a study that illustrated a comprehensive look at the experience of women in the labor force, their employment needs, and the implications of both for education, training, and public policy. The analysis pointed out women being important workers and recommended that the Secretary of Labor establish a committee to review the consequences and sufficiency of existing laws that have a direct bearing on the employment of women. By 1961, President John F. Kennedy was open to pressure to establish a President’s Commission on the Status of Women. The demands came from a variety of sources and were successful for a variety of reasons. Esther Peterson, Assistant Secretary of Labor and director of the Women’s Bureau, the highest-ranking woman in the Kennedy Administration, wanted such a commission. Along with equal pay legislation, it had long been on the agenda of women labor movement and it was in that movement that Peterson’s working career had been concentrated. Peterson, along with the other notable women’s organizations, finally realized the Commission with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt. The Commission set up seven study committees on education and counseling, home and community services, women in employment, labor standards, security of basic income, women under the law, and women as citizens. Two special consultations were also organized by the Commission on the problems of black women and women’s depiction in the mass media.
Manifestations of social movements in various forms have been apparent through the course of time. America in the late 20th century witnessed the emergence of liberalistic, civil rights movements, political pressure groups and even radical, revolutionary movements that seek to completely transform society. While pioneers and advocates to these movements struggle for civil legal rights, and equality and might even accomplish them, they will not liberate fully those who initiated these movements. Society itself is the problem that needs to be addressed, not gender, race or sexual preference. Until society is altered, homosexuals, blacks, women, and other minorities, will never be truly free.
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