Civil rights... What is the first thing that comes to your mind when these words are brought up in a conversation? Have you heard of the social protest groups that still fight for civil rights, even in the 21st century? To understand whether their work promotes change, we must first look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America began in the 20th century, after the Second World War; there were several ongoing reasons for this. The U.S. emerged from WW2 as a superpower and as one of the most prosperous nations, and it seemed to the citizens of other countries as though it was achieved with complete democracy. However, there were severe inequalities, racial injustices, and political, social, and economic discrimination against Black-Americans. This racial segregation stemmed from the age-old bias towards the Whites.
The segregation operated by the Jim Crow laws forced the Blacks to use different facilities and to live in separate and less developed areas. They were given no voting rights as they were put through nearly impossible literacy and reading tests to register to vote. Backed by threats of violence, they were prohibited from challenging the policies that allowed such tests. There was segregation based on education, wages and in the Southern States, the prejudice and discrimination against the Blacks were significantly worse. This was rightly a cause for rage, and this rage was channeled through civil rights groups. They were inspired by the Non-Violence Movement by Mahatma Gandhi and adopted an aim to improve equality.
The National Association for Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) aimed to “ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” They raised awareness and used legal means to achieve equality. This is an example of a civil rights organization, which was a major part of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Several other social protest groups with students and adults emerged, which fought back in the form of sit-ins, marches, and boycotting actions. These groups played a large role in the implementation of laws, which fought for the rights of the Blacks. Through the help of media coverage and television broadcasting, and the involvement of great leaders such as Martin Luther King, the outreach of the civil rights and social protest groups drastically increased. These efforts contributed to the right to vote and desegregation in the workplace and other educational and social institutions.
Second Day of the Greensboro Sit-In (From left to right: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson)
Photo via Jack Moebes/Corbus
Rosa Parks, 1956 (Photo via Lauren/Picasa)
Another similar instance was witnessed in South Africa, where the White Government had implemented the Apartheid Laws. Here, the African National Committee, led by Nelson Mandela fought tirelessly to abolish the apartheid regime and to put an end to the suffering of the black citizens of South Africa, who were facing large-scale discrimination in their own country. This shows that the civil rights and social protest groups had a large impact on improving the rights of marginalized groups.
An example of social protest groups in the 21st century includes those of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The death of Black-Americans such as Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Elijah McClain has caused an increase in the involvement in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Several people began speaking up against the racism and police brutality that they have faced. Citizens from other races showed their support. People participated in marches, protests, and strikes against authorities.
Black Lives Matter Protest (Photo via Pacific Press)
Due to the wide-scale outreach that comes with social media activism, the Black Lives Matter Movement has gained tremendous momentum. People can donate to fundraisers within minutes and can inform themselves on important issues with the click of a button. This also applies to several other causes. The crisis in Afghanistan received a lot of support from citizens around the world. The spread of information was quick and thus, relief funds reached Afghanistan almost immediately. However, with social media, it is also important to be aware of inauthentic and misinforming sources. If this hurdle is overcome, people can access knowledge quickly and the outreach of civil rights and social protest groups grows. Their impact drastically increases the relevance of social protest movements. These groups create tangible change for marginalized groups in society including women, people of color, indigenous people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and so on. Thus, civil rights and social protest groups can be extremely impactful and relevant in the 21st century, if they work correctly.
Authored By: Zoya Bhargava
Edited By: Akanksha Mallick