In the twentieth century, many events brought significant changes – cultural, economic, political, and others. In the social sphere, the period was marked by struggle and considerable progress in the protection of human rights. One of the landmark events was the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on various grounds, including race, religion, gender, and a little later sexual orientation. Under the Act, inequality was no longer to be present in recruitment, voting, and education. Despite the fact that the law’s impact on the country’s development is positive, discrimination manifestations still create tension.
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The conditions under which the signing of the Act happened contributed to social changes. First of all, many prerequisites arose for this – for example, the protests started by Rosa Parks or the Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King Jr’s leadership. Moreover, the country has become more open thanks to the media and television. The dissemination of information about inappropriate incidents aroused sympathy and support from citizens (Hersch and Shinall 428). Non-violent protests were gaining strength, as they were safer and therefore attracted more people who did not want to fight the police. Finally, there was a Cold War in the world, and the United States acted in it as representatives of the free world, and there was no place for the segregation laws. President Kennedy, and after his assassination, President Johnson both opposed segregation (Hersch and Shinall 428). As a consequence of many years of struggle, Civil Rights Act was a new significant step towards equality.
The law consists of 11 sections, which contain the provisions necessary to combat discrimination directly. The law required the same rules and procedures for all citizens, in particular during the elections. Where complaints of discrimination had been noted, the Government should have sent a representative to address the problem. Funding for programs that received government assistance, but were also marked by discrimination, should have ceased. One of the most influential is the seventh section of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial separation at work (Hersch and Shinall 427). After Act’s signing, almost immediately, all forms of segregation were canceled.
The effect of the abolition of segregation laws changed America’s direction of development, social behavior significantly. Before adopting the Act, employers, owners of any establishments, like a cafe or a hairdresser, could legally establish distinctions. Signs similar to “Whites Only,” which until 1964 significantly limited African-Americans’ movement after the signing of the Act no longer had power. The abolition of segregation in schools and workplaces has reduced prejudice. Communication between representatives of races made it possible to learn each other closer and understand the meaninglessness of some opinions. Of course, such an effect was not instantaneous since discriminatory practices cannot be removed immediately. However, gradual changes also have an impact and significance on society.
The Act paved the way for the adoption of several more laws promoting equality. For example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made literacy tests – a strong manifestation of discrimination – illegal (Hersch and Shinall 425). Three years later, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was also adopted prohibiting discrimination in real estate (“Civil Rights Act of 1964”). Later, the list of signs by which people cannot be discriminated included gender identity and sexual orientation (Hersch and Shinall 448). Thus, like society changes, the law is also modified to combat any signs of inequality.
While the Act had many positive consequences, there are also certain shortcomings. Despite all the laws, racism is still alive in society and affects African Americans’ quality of life. The Act prohibited discrimination but did not guarantee equal opportunities for the entire population without exceptions (Kendi). As a result, the discriminated population also suffered from poverty, inaccessibility of health care, and similar problems. Writer and researcher Ibram Kendi believe that the identification of Jim Crow laws and racism had negative consequences after signing the Act. Since the new law only banned segregation but did not exterminate prejudice, people again blamed the invented inferiority of African-Americans (Kendi) for the subsequent development of racism. This contradiction has led to new forms of discrimination and new forms of resistance, and to the harmful idea that racism was defeated.
In conclusion, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a critical achievement in the struggle for equality in America. Its signing marked the end of segregation laws and the prohibition of discriminatory practices. The Act is an important step and tool in achieving equality for all representatives of minorities. However, more than half a century later, discrimination and inequality still affect society. In particular, the reason may be that Civil Rights Act, although it prohibited discrimination, did not become a guarantee of equal rights and opportunities. Despite the misconception of citizens, racism was not defeated but only changed, and the struggle continues to this day. For that reason, it could not be said that the law had eradicated discrimination, but it was a significant step in this direction.
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“Civil Rights Act of 1964.” History, 2021, Web.
Hersch, Joni, and Jennifer Bennett Shinall. “Fifty years later: The legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 34.2 (2015): 424-456.
Kendi, Ibram. “The Civil Rights Act Was a Victory against Racism. But Racists Also Won.” The Washington Post, 2017, Web.