This Movement feels different

By Russell Lee

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The fight for racial equality has been going on since the American Civil War ended in 1865. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army won the Civil War, life pretty much stayed the same for African Americans. They were dependent on white bosses and employers to give them manual labor jobs. Sadly, African Americans got paid “slave wages,” which is where that term came from.

It took another 100 years before any progress was made toward racial equality. The two biggest influences of the 20th century toward this movement were Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1955, Parks got arrested in Montgomery, Alabama after she refused to get up out of her seat and let a white man sit there. Her brave act sparked a movement to desegregate public buses in Montgomery. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that segregation on the buses was unconstitutional, so the movement won.

And, of course, Dr. King was the champion of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. His work led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Fair Housing Act and several other laws that ban discrimination in the workplace. It was a huge turning point in the fight for racial equality. For the first time, employers and landlords could not discriminate against anyone because of their race.

The Difference Between Then and Now

If you look at the racial equality and civil rights movements of the past, the people who were protesting on the streets and demanding change were mostly African Americans. Look up old footage from the 1960s civil rights marches, and you won’t see too many white faces in the crowds. If you do see white faces, they were probably the police officers who tried to control the crowds.

Why didn’t more white people get involved in the civil rights movement back then? Were more white people racist in those days? Well, desegregation was still something new in American life. White parents had raised their children to avoid interactions with African Americans for the most part. So, it would have been highly unusual if white people had suddenly abandoned everything they were taught to help African Americans fight for equal rights.

Over the next 50 years, all schools and public institutions became desegregated entirely. White people and black people began using the same water fountains, bathrooms, classrooms, bus seats, and so on. As the two races started to mix, it established friendships and romantic relationships between them. Although there were still some white people and black people who didn’t want to mix, the general acceptance of the opposite race became more apparent with each new generation of people.

Now, in 2020, we see white people marching with black people to protest police violence against African Americans. White people didn’t have to get involved in this movement, but they chose to do so. Why? Because many of their friends and family members are minorities. They weren’t raised to be hateful and racist toward black people like their parents and grandparents had been. The newest generation is the least racist generation in American history. When young white people see their black friends getting mistreated, they want to help them.

Another reason why all the races are joining the movement is due to cell phones and social media. White people now get to see the injustices that happen to black people because someone is usually around to record them on video. It is no longer only a myth that black people get mistreated in America. White people can see it with their own eyes now because footage of the mistreatment spreads on the internet quickly.

As a result, white people are inspired to help stop the mistreatment of African Americans.