February 29, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

African American History, And The Reality Of Modern Day Rights

2 min read
President Johnson Civil Rights Act of 1968

African Americans have faced a very difficult journey to the position their demographic finds itself in today. Despite their huge contribution to the financial and military security of the modern USA, African Americans continue to face disproportionate hardship in society, work and schooling. Indeed, a recent Pew Research study found that 48% of all African Americans had experienced discrimination at work, and continue to earn less than Americans from other ethnic backgrounds. While the picture today is conflicted, it is nevertheless getting better, and understanding outstanding barriers requires a nuanced look at history.

Rights against discrimination

As with many minority groups, African Americans labored under outdated stereotypes in the early post-abolition days of the USA. As such, they, and other ethnic minority groups, have had to lobby extremely hard to have anti-discrimination rules put into place. Today, a race discrimination lawyer can help African Americans to receive justice if they have been unfairly treated in civil matters, specifically where federal or state rules have been breached. While positive, these rights are not static and 2023 has seen backsliding; most notably in a number of Supreme Court cases that have struck down affirmative action policies. This is worrying, given that the courts system is exactly the method through which historical African American activists have carved out their equality. Furthermore, as the Washington Post highlights, the wider American public appear to have a low level of enthusiasm for ensuring their African American countrymen receive equal rights. This is an area that requires active protection.

Embracing work equality

Many African Americans continued to work on land that had formerly contained slave owner plantations, through systems such as sharecropping. Before the advent of widespread labor laws, these areas enabled wealthy landowners to continue exploiting labor for cheap rates. A series of labor laws have meant that this is no longer the reality in the USA and, yet, rights are backsliding. In a review of rights facing black men, the Brookings Institute noted a much higher level of unemployment during recession periods among African Americans, and a lower overall earnings rate. Without affirmative action, these points cannot be proactively managed.

The American dream

For many immigrants in the early 20th century, America promised a dream of self sufficiency through hard work and access to housing and luxuries coming from that. According to NBC, African Americans have largely been excluded from this owing to their traumatic origins with America. Black home ownership is reaching historic lows, and despite civil rights changes, such as one 1968 banning ‘redlining’ – where banks and the federal administration were able to refuse to back loans in areas meeting certain demographic points – the reality today is not much different.

African Americans experienced a traumatic past in arriving in America today. While lots of work has been done to roll back centuries old views and treatment of African Americans, it seems a lot of that good work is backsliding. While the outlook remains positive, to improve further, concerted action is needed now.