Volume 4, Number 11 - March 4, 2014

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Rasheeda Davis

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The 50th Anniversary of Social Change

By Rasheeda Davis

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Look around a classroom in 2014, and the diversity that exists speaks volumes and reflects the ideals embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most iconic speeches in American history because of the profound vision embodied in his words for America.  

This speech was delivered at a time when America was divided and racial hostility was a constant battle. His act of courage ignited a want for change by many Americans from all walks of life. His death, rather than create fear, motivated a movement toward change and equality for all Americans. 

The “separate but equal” ideal contradicted America’s promotion of democracy, freedom, and opportunity. This movement gave life to one of most significant pieces of legislation in American history that truly signified the motto, “the land of the free.”  

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964 to help reform the nation’s principles of equality. Prior to that , Jim Crow laws dominated legislation in the South and set the precedence for social order. Isolating someone based on their race, religion or ethnicity was acceptable and doing otherwise classified an individual as weak. 

This piece of legislation outlawed the notions of the Jim Crow laws, making segregation and discrimination of all types illegal and desegregating schools, workplaces and public facilities. 

While reflecting on the significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in American history, I realized that the issue of equality is still present in American society but in a different form.  

When talking to a few students on campus about the significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issues’ surrounding gay rights and same- sex marriage were discussed. Although the struggles that African-Americans encountered to obtain equal rights differ, the basic principles are the same.  

African-Americans encountered segregation as today same-sex couples are denied access to certain rights that all should receive, such as marriage. 

Denying someone equal rights based on their sexual orientation should be illegal but the reality is it is not.  

According to CNN, only 12 states in the U.S allow same-sex couples to get married.  

The unfortunate issues that surround gay rights reflect that our nation has progressed but still has not fully recognized the true ideals of equality. This issue just shows that with change comes discomfort but also more issues.  

The reality that segregation existed is often viewed as a tragedy in American history, but in actuality, it is a lesson for all to learn the importance of accepting others for who they are.  

The differences of another person can either teach you or create animosity because of the lack of knowledge. This is often the source of many racial and social issues.  

The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, marks a pivotal moment in American history that reshaped society and created the modern era where anything is possible.

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