The civil rights movement was one of the most significant periods within American history. Countless events, issues, and acts occurred during the epoch to narrow down an exact definition. However, on a broad scale, the civil rights movement was a period of time in which Americans utilized nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to bring about change in their government’s’ policies. The movement sparked within the 1950s period. “Jim Crow laws were passed by Southern states that created a racial caste system in the American South. By 1914 laws effectively created two separate societies; one black and one white. Blacks and whites could not ride together in the same rail car, sit in the same waiting room, sit in the same theatre, attend the same school or eat in the same restaurant.” Jim Crow laws were implemented and evidently, public spaces were segregated between whites and people of colored skin. Despite the emancipation proclamation, areas around the nation were reeking of racism, segregation, and inequality for American citizens. Ironically, the home of democracy, the nation that forged the U.S. constitution and the bill of rights, have been violating the rights of their own citizens for decades. The constant struggle for racial equity has been evident as American soil is tainted with the blood of its own people, fighting for human rights that have been denied by the ones who supposedly are in office to protect them. With the rise of an ever changing society along with the press of reforms and movements, Americans rose above the threatening racism of the south and fought against the traditional ideals. Powerful leaders including Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, rose to answer the tensions between Americans and fought for basic rights of a democracy. “But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” They sought to express their concerns through words despite the frequent use of force from police to nullify their efforts. As a result, peaceful protesting was prominent in the marches and protests of the decade.
Beneficial policies and positive aspects gradually came into effect after extensive periods of peaceful protesting and tugging at the roots of American principles. “ As late as World War II (1941-45) black Georgians were effectively denied the vote, segregated in most areas of daily life, and subject to persistent discrimination and often violence. But by 1965, sweeping federal civil rights legislation prohibited segregation and discrimination, and this new phase of race relations was first officially welcomed into Georgia by Governor Jimmy Carter in 1971.” Incredible policies were enacted that ultimately extinguished heated tensions of discrimination across the nation. African Americans were finally granted the opportunity to vote without being discriminated leading to an input of their perspectives on legislation or candidates such as officers to represent the community. “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.” To assist with the disadvantages of minorities within America, legislation was proposed to assist with improval on their economic stance in society. Affirmative action was supported by President Lyndon Johnson and was implemented to safeguard the rates of employment and education rates for minorities. Americans were granted privilege of a public education regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex. They also had more abundance in opportunities in the working field.
Additionally, Jim Crow Laws were abolished and traditional racist ideals of the South were slowly disappearing. Although the civil rights period didn’t exhibit immediate prominent change and end discrimination at once, it laid the foundation for a brighter future for all Americans alike, one in which the hands of the white and colored could be held together.
The civil rights movement occurred approximately half a century ago, but various parts of the movement echo across the nation today. Incidents such as Ferguson and other tragic cases, resulting in the harm or death of innocent citizens by police brutality, have been arising in the past few years. Events that occurred recently in Ferguson sparked tensions and recaptured former ideals of the civil rights movement. “Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The shooting prompted protests that roiled the area for weeks. On Nov. 24, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Mr. Wilson. The announcement set off another wave of protests.” The shooting of Michael Brown led to the sudden outcries of the public. Just like the cases during the civil rights movement, police officers responsible for the killing of citizens were ultimately acquitted with no charges. As a result, waves of frustration and protest were aroused. Similar traditional methods such as peaceful protesting with signs expressing individuals’ concerns were utilized. The public’s actions brought the realization of the obscure statistics of perpetual racial profiling and police brutality. Protests, riots, and civil unrest is prominent within Ferguson and neighboring areas regarding the treatment of citizens. The issues surfaced due to a shaky relationship of trust from the local police department to the respective community. These incidents are not the result of the standards that police officers must fulfill upon enrollment but rather the lack of diversity within the department. “Ferguson Is 60 Percent Black. Virtually All Its Cops Are White.” The ratio of white police officers to demographic ratios of a particular area is still relatively large, resembling the almost completely white police force during the civil rights movement. In areas such as Ferguson, an overwhelming 94% of the police was white in contrast to the 64% black population. It is the lack of trust within the community that produces the conflict and protesting that occurs. From a psychological standpoint, it is difficult for individuals who already have false pretenses towards authoritative figures, in their community, to rekindle their trust if they can’t find individuals to express themselves to. It is easier for individuals to communicate and find themselves comforted if they are near individuals that share similar traits such as ethnicity. Prominently, in areas such as Ferguson, the representation of the respective communities to law enforcement is inadequate and conflict is evident.
Despite the aura of negativity surrounding Ferguson, positive changes have aroused as a result of protests and the desire to produce change, like in the civil rights movement. “Historically, there was no documentary evidence of most encounters between police officers and the public, and due to the volatile nature of those encounters, this often resulted in radically divergent accounts of incidents. Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.” As a nation, the citizens’ voices are respected as their concerns has ultimately led to the installation of body cameras on law enforcers, a variety of programs to adequately test police, and departments are heeding the concerns of the people. Police standards are proficient and have been reconstructed to increase the quality of police officers that takes care of our citizens. “ ‘We send out teams every day to different locations to increase diversity and look for the best and most qualified candidates we can find,’ Fonti said. ‘It’s a very diverse city, so we want a diverse police force to represent that city.’ ” America is working towards reevaluating the law enforcement system and make sure that those who receives positions in the police department not only meet standards and bears the intent to protect Americans from harm but also to represent the community. In summary, the ideals, issues, and successes of the civil rights movement continue to resonate within modern America. Prominently, Ferguson and the civil rights movement share similar properties and ideas regarding change for the wellbeing of American citizens. Although problems from half a century ago are instigated once again in Ferguson, certainly, as a nation, America has taken leaps and bounds towards improving the lives and safety of its citizens. Change is gradual, and the motives and cries of the people from the civil rights movement and Ferguson, will continue to ring throughout history to forge a better future for America.