How Civil Rights Movement Changed Pop Culture Essay

A whirlwind of events occurred after the victory in World War II and the return of the soldiers. New ideas and opinions arose, as well as more problems and fears. As popular culture transformed, social attitudes began to change as well. In public and political debates, instead of being opposed to change, many Americans started to agree with the side that welcomed it. Although some changes in popular culture brought unrest, there were many changes that brought about more acceptance and toleration of other races and other cultures, as exemplified by youth culture, the Civil Rights movement, and immigration; as a result, Americans began to agree with the sides of the debates of which the arguments sympathized with the recognition of other ethnicities and cultures.

The emergence of youth culture in the postwar decades was a striking development. This 1960s youth culture was a rebellion against the norms of society. During this time period, “the word TEENAGER came into common usage among marketers.” The “teenager” became a cultural phenomenon, and which led to their becoming the target of industries — such as advertisers and movies. But what defined the youth culture the most was its music: rock’ n’ roll. Rock’ n’ roll rejected the romantic ballads of the 1940s and “provided a vehicle against through which urban, rural, and suburban youths declared their independence from parental standards and expressed their desire for pleasure” ; subsequently, unhappy adults saw and believed it as “an invitation to interracial dating, rebellion, and a more flagrant sexuality.” This rebellion to the social norms by the teenagers eventually was accepted by society, as rock’ n’ roll records between 1953 and 1959 increased from “$213 million to $603 million.” However, other aspects of youth culture, such as the creation of hippies, tried to find pleasure through other forms — drugs and sex. This brought up many debates and concerns over the use of drugs and contraceptives, leading to drug laws, and the legalization of birth control pills and abortion. The public emphasis on “free love” and “recreational sex” led to eventual acceptance of the two. Society, after some time, came to accept these laws and the use of legal drugs and birth control.

Before and during World War II, many Americans did not like the thought of foreigners in their country, especially those from Asia after Pearl Harbor (the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1924). In the depths of the Great Depression, for example, only 23,048 immigrants were allowed into America. They believed that immigrants were lesser than the native-born caucasian. After World War II on the other hand, immigration rates increased at [approximately] a rate of one million per decade.” Some people began to receive immigrants favorably Soon, act after act and law after law allowed the entry for more immigrants into the United States: the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 (allowed approximately 415,000 Europeans, mostly Jewish refugees); the repealing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943; the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 (ended the exclusion of Japanese, Koreans, and Southeast Asians). There was still many arguments over immigration, even though many people accepted the fact that immigrants should have a chance in their country, just as they did.

Lastly, the Civil Rights movement from the 1940s to the early 1960s, proved that the changes in social beliefs led to more acceptance in social attitudes. Jim Crow laws had made the lives of African Americans horrible. Black workers labored under terrible conditions, and only “less than 20 percent of eligible black voters were allowed to vote.” Many people believed that African Americans were inferior to caucasian Americans. Sparked by Brown v. Education, the Civil Rights movement emerged with a series of boycotts that fought against racially segregated facilities in the South. Hundreds of demonstrations ignited throughout the nation. National and international media caught many of the violent acts that police forces used to suppress the demonstrations, and thus, caused problems that the government could no longer ignore. Congress was forced to Instead of the superiority complex that the majority of caucasian Americans had in the early and mid parts of U.S. history, many Americans changed to accept African Americans as equal human beings. Although there are still many problems, even in today’s society, with racism and rights — people are still discriminating against minorities (sometimes even majorities: affirmative action) — there is a large number of Americans who have adjusted to the thought of learning, working, and living alongside foreigners.

Some may argue that during this time period, popular culture changes led to more paranoia and discrimination. The most infamous example would be the Red Scare, and the fears of communism that many Americans had. However, tracing the fears back to its roots, it is shown that “neither side completely understood or trusted the other, and each projected its worst fears onto the other.” Americans believed that the Soviet system was unstable — that communism was unstable — and would eventually collapse, and so, if the U.S. could prevent the spread of communism, they could prevent other countries from collapsing. Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, saw the United States as an “imperialist aggressor” and that they were determined to replace Great Britain as the world’s dominant capitalist power. He believed that the west was suffering from their own fatal weaknesses and would also collapse. This was a lack of miscommunication, a lack of the ability to accept another’s beliefs, and a lack of trust, that led to the fears that became so famous when learning about the Cold War. But, these fears and problems are shown in every society. Overall, however, people tolerated and accepted others more than before, as demonstrated by the youth culture, immigration, and the Civil Rights movement.

All in all, changes in popular culture led to the a more accepting and tolerating social attitude, and the people resultantly agreed more with the side that favored acceptance in political and public debates.

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