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Race Relations and the Civil Rights Movement

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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Can we continue to disobey the very idea that made us, that this great nation was founded upon. For almost a century, convergence of social attitudes, market forces and government policy in the United States has contributed to significant racial segregation. The racial segregation system in the Southern states of the United States of America causes severe social, political and economic inequities for African Americans and must be abandoned if this nation is to move forward.

Racism is the belief that the physical characteristics of a person or group determines their capabilities and that one group is naturally superior to other groups (Kelly, 2012). Racism has been a major factor of society in America for a very long time. This has seen racial prejudice to be central in the development of many American laws, legalizing white dominance over others. The history of African Americans is an example of what happens when a group becomes defined as weaker and less intelligent and overall, less valued (Kelly, 2012). It will certainly take the African American population along time to recover and they may never truly be satisfied. Nevertheless, we simply can't do nothing while Martin Luther King Jr. writes letters from a Birmingham jail. Since 1915, all Southern states have practice some form of Jim Crow laws (Kelly, 2012). African Americans can't eat in the same restaurants, drink out of the same water fountains, watch movies in the same theaters, play in the same parks, or go to the same schools as whites. African Americans sit in the back of buses and streetcars and give up their seats to whites when instructed to do so. African Americans can't nurse whites in hospitals. Today most of the signs we read say either "Colored Only" or "White Only".

Probably the most prominent effects of racial segregation are social. One major impact on society in America is in the area of education. The segregation that many young African Americans experience pushes that population into a downwards spiral that ends at illiteracy and no chance of skilled work. African Americans from poor inner cities that attend colored only schools suffer the most, academically and emotionally. Education is also used as a means to perpetuate segregation. Due to education being funded primarily through local and state revenue, the quality of education varies greatly depending on the geographical location of the school (Briggs, 2003). In 1962 only 37.8% of African American children attended primary school whilst white American children had 72.2% attendance (Lawson, 2006). As it has always been, schools for African Americans are of a much lower standard than schools for whites, a true disgrace. Michael Harrington, an American academic and political activist, strongly attacked the unequal distribution of America's wealth and the failure of the government to make sure that everyone had proper medical care when they needed it:

"America has the best dressed poverty the world has ever known it is much easier in the united states to be decently dressed than it is to be decently housed, fed or doctored. At precisely that moment in history, where for the first time a people have the material ability to end poverty, they lack the will to do so. They cannot see, they cannot act, and the consciences of the well-off are the victims of affluence."

This statement issued by Harrington shows that even though black people are at a disadvantage, they do not need to feel completely hopeless, there are both black and white people on their side, people that protest for equal rights amongst the different races. Another impact of racial segregation can be found in the health care of African Americans. Poorer areas in which African Americans are forced to live in often lack the health care that is available in outside areas (Briggs, 2003). The many 'ghettos' that are so isolated from other parts of society is a large contributor to the poor health often found in these residents. The overcrowded living conditions of African Americans caused by segregation means that the spread of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, occurs much more frequently (Seitles, 1996, page 1). This is known as "epidemic injustice" because racial groups confined in a certain area are affected much more often than those living outside the area (Seitles, 1996, page 1). Furthermore, segregation seemes to have a great effect in crime levels amongst African Americans, an issue that isn't helping their stereotypes. However, crime has increased not only amongst African Americans, we have seen 'lynching' and the secret murder



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