In the Struggle for Democracy (Greenberg, 483-84) the author explains that gradually, little by little, the Supreme Court of the United States responded to the need to rule segregation unconstitutional. And in the process the Court ruled that any law passed using the criteria of race was also unconstitutional. The Brown v. Board of Education vote in 1954 meant that segregation in schools was not constitutional and it was the agency of black activists and advocates that got it done by bringing litigation forward. Meantime Jones mentions that Eisenhower had a "hands-off" policy regarding enforcing the Brown v. Board of Education; and while that "emboldened" segregationists and racists to resist the Supreme Court ruling, it activated ordinary African-Americans to joined in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Thanks to the marching feet of tens of thousands of Black Americans - and the boycotts led by people like Rosa Parks and others - their efforts pushed the issue until the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Over 250,000 Americans, many of then Black, attended the Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in Washington D.C. Many believed that this was the largest demonstration of its kind in U.S. history, and it was clearly a case of a multitude of Black Americans deciding to step forward and show their support for social change and justice.
Still, just because there are laws against discrimination based on race that doesn't mean that fairness and racial peace exists in the workplace. Greenberg (485) writes that over one-third of African-Americans and more than one out of five Latino and Asian men have run into some for of job discrimination (in 2001). The country clearly has a long way to go until justice is a fact of life for all Americans. Racial profiling is another example of racism that has seemed to become institutionalized in America, and the only way for minorities to fight back has been to use their agency as citizens to convince elected officials that profiling...
In Illinois, there is a law against racial profiling ("The Illinois Racial Profiling Law"); all law enforcement departments are required to report details of traffic stops. The 2004 results, according to Northwestern University Institute on Race and Justice, show that while there is no "statewide pattern of racial bias," in many communities, "minority drivers are two to three times as likely to be the subject of a 'consent search'," a search of the driver's vehicle with permission of the driver, when no "probable cause" was presented by the officer. All the data gathered by Illinois is tainted, however, because over 50 police agencies "failed to provide data as required by law," Northwestern University reported. And also, there is "no penalty" for failure to provide data.
Meanwhile in recent years Blacks have been given a chance through "Affirmative Action" (AA) to get to the front of the line for federal, state and other jobs, and enrollment in colleges and universities; AA has been a help as they continue on the road to fairness and justice. Resistance to Affirmative Action in California, for example, has led to laws banning universities in the state system from giving preference to Blacks and Latinos.
Speaking of Latinos, Jones (609) relates that Cesar Chavez became a hero among Spanish-speaking immigrants by organizing farm workers to unionize (among other grievances, to resist the cruel working situations with "short hoes"). Chicano studies programs emerged in the late 1960s and national boycotts of lettuce and table grapes helped the Latino community achieve its demands for better pay and better working conditions. In a way, the Chicano movement learned a lot from the Black protests of the Civil Rights movement.
In conclusion, the activism of ordinary citizens of color has changed America dramatically since the end of WWII. The Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress have made and interpreted laws that protect all citizens' constitutional rights; but without the movements for social justice by millions of activist citizens, those laws would have very little meaning today.
Greenberg, Edward S. The Struggle for Democracy.
Jones, Jacqueline. Created Equal: A Social and Political history of the United States.
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