I feel that the life of American Blacks has undoubtedly improved since the 1950’s. Although, there is still evidence today of bitterness and discrimination against Blacks in America. I do not think that true equality has been achieved.
In sources 1-4 we are shown discrimination in a variety of forms. We can see how the Black people were treated as an inferior race. Martin Luther King tells us in source 1, that many facilities would be poor for the Black community for example, the park allocated for use by the Black children was “absolutely inadequate.” Today this would not happen because in the majority of places Blacks and Whites share the same, usually sufficient facilities.
We are also made aware of the employment situation. Jobs were menial and badly paid and it was highly likely for a White employee to be promoted rather than a Black person “regardless of their comparative talents.” In some places this discrimination is still evident in the workplace. In November 1996, a lawsuit was brought against the oil company, Texaco; when one of their executives were caught in tape discussing Black people in the oil firm. “All the black jelly beans seem to be glued to the bottom of the bag.” This implied that Black people still lose out on promotions. When applying for promotions, Blacks were chosen at rates significantly lower than of their non- black counterparts.
Martin Luther King also speaks of the crippling poverty in which the Black people of the time were being subjected to. He speaks of being born into a Jim-Crow hospital to parents who probably lived in the ghetto. Sadly, situations similar to this are still occurring today. Black poverty is still a major problem. Family breakdown, drug addiction and violence have increased since the 1950’s.
Segregation in housing is also still evident. In an interview in 1991 with a rich, white businessman, the question was posed, if a black family could move into the exclusive area in which he lived. He replied; “I don’t think this could or would happen.” This shows that there is still a degree of segregated housing even at the top of the social ladder.
In sources 1-4 we are also informed of the social discrimination at the hands of the legal system. IN 1933, Texas state law prohibited “Caucasians” and “Africans” boxing together. This is most definitely not the case today as boxing is clearly a multi-racial sport being dominated by Blacks. Many boxing greats have been black. Examples of these include, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
Source 5 alludes to institutionalised discrimination. It shows the murder of Hattie Carroll- a black kitchen maid, by William Zanzinger, a young, white man with high office relations in the politics of Maryland. The fact that he only received a six-month sentence shows discrimination and injustice against the black victim. Unfortunately, this is still the case in some instances. The case of Rodney King in 1991 is a classic example of this. Rodney King was brutally beaten by six police officers. These six police officers were later acquitted and this racial injustice sparked the L.A. riots causing mass injury and destruction.
Sources 6-10 show forms of discrimination and desegregation in schools. We are made aware of the attitude of the Whites and the feelings of one black girl, Elizabeth Eckford, who was the subject of racial discrimination. She recalls being heckled and shouted at. She tells us that she was subjected to abuse such as, “no nigger bitch is going to get in our school! Get out of here!” From these sources we can see how fraught the situation was then. Today it is more than likely that this would not happen. Most schools are desegregated yet many schools are predominantly black or white.
In sources 11-14 we can see how legislation is surely showing improvement. In source 11, James Eastland, a white member of the US Senate made a speech on racial segregation in the Senate in 1954. In his speech he was being clearly racist. The sad factor is that this was allowed to be said. Today in the USA a senator would not get away with making a similar speech. We get a clear view of how the legal system and government of the USA has changed a lot but not totally. It is still clear that political positions are still dominated by Whites. Still, to date there has not been a black American President. Although, we can see that Blacks, now hold many of the top political positions for example, Colin Powell who is the American Secretary of State.
We can also to a degree, say that parts of the Civil Rights Movement were successful. We can also see this in the case of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus dispute. This successful campaign stopped bus segregation and made an improvement to the lives of black people.
In sources 15-18 we can still see that a ‘them and us’ mentality still prevails. In source 17, Donald Hill, a black law professor said, “it is an integrated America,” this shows that an improvement has been made since the 1950’s but he continued, “only to the extent that we have come into contact with one another…” This in itself shows that integration is on a superficial level.
In source 18 we can see that only the ‘elite and fortunate’ Blacks have reached the ‘American Dream.’ The majority of the black people remain in the same social and economic position and most of the time they attend all black schools. Ultimately, we have no background information on the author but it can be assumed that this is reputable and the source is indeed useful. We are told that some problems still exist, for example, low paid, menial jobs. There is still a perception of inferiority against the Blacks of America.
We can say that undoubtedly, the life for American Blacks has improved as many laws have been put in place to stop discrimination in the US. Examples of these are the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts. Although, these laws have been passed, racism and discrimination is still a problem in the US today. It is fair to say that life has improved for black Americans but racism is still a part of life today for many black people. As Judith Harkham Semas said; “Blacks, even in an era of rampant, racial hostility from World War 2 on, began a steady march towards equality. But the pace is still slow.”