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The Turbulent Sixties Essay

The 1960s was a wild decade all around the world. It was a time of change, the “baby boom” generation was reaching adulthood, the culture of the time promoted sex, drugs and rock and roll, and civil rights issues were tearing the United States of America apart. Three major civil rights issues nearly tore the nation apart in the 1960s. Desegregation of the public school system had the end result of integrating black and white children into the same school. New Black Nationalism began to demand economic justice and legal equality and they would fight for it at any cost. Those struggles made by African-Americans gave other groups the inspiration to protest for what they thought was right.

Affirmative Action which was brought in the 1960s as a way to give every race an equal shot at certain aspects of society has begun to diminish in mainstream America as the society continues to become more colorblind and walks across racial lines. I am writing about civil rights issues in the 1960s and the retreat from affirmative action in the 1990s because I believe these events are the MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENTS in American history since 1920 because they radically reshaped the racial boundaries that had been tearing America apart since the early days of the nation.

Even after the groundbreaking “Brown v. Board of Education” case in 1954 schools were still very much segregated. This was because the Supreme Court had no established deadlines or guidelines for when desegregation was to occur. Finally in 1963 President Kennedy sought legislation to enforce equal access in public schools. This legislation was placed under the 1964 “Civil Rights Act” which guaranteed equal access for all Americans, regardless of color and sex, to public accommodations.

The federal government could easily enforce segregation now by restricting funds to schools which remained segregated. However, blacks and whites continued to separate themselves in most areas which was emphasized in 1968 when the National Advisory on Civil Disorders announced, “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.” Yet finally people of both races had the chance to be integrated into the same educational system. This, of course, sparked much protest.

Continuing in protest, by mid-1966 black protest was extending nation wide,┬áit was no longer confined to the south. African-Americans and their new “Black Nationalism” demanded economic justice and legal equality. This growing movement began to bring violence with it, something that the white majority would certainly begin to notice. The oppressive conditions blacks still suffered erupted into violence in the summers of 1964 to 1968 where many of the nation’s major cities were savagely destroyed.

This really served no purpose because they were just destroying their own communities. There was another radical who was making his way up in the new movement, Malcolm X. Malcolm X stressed notions only known then by the Ku-Klux-Klan. He wanted “black pride” and autonomy from the “corrupt white society.” Malcolm X sparked off the “Black Pride” movement which achieved national attention throughout the 1960s. These very movements spread to other ethnic groups who were also fighting for their rights throughout the nation.

Nation Americans were one ethnic group which followed Malcolm X’s lead. Native American activism was one of militancy and radicalism with the cry, “red power.” They rejected assimilation into American society and considered themselves as independent nation states. This civil rights movement began with demonstrations by Nation Americans in public buildings and land they claimed to own before the European settlers made their way to North America. This movement gained recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs which agreed to pay for Indian territory taken in the 19th centaury and begin legislation for educational and health needs of Native Americans.

Affirmative Action, a policy which attempts to overcome past discrimination by forcing a set amount of jobs or resources to the effected group, which this policy was made for was African Americans. In present day America the role of affirmative action has been diminished due to the society becoming more colorblind and integrated. The Civil Rights act of 1991 reassured people the government was still behind this program, however the Supreme Court in 1995 placed a limit on this when awarding government contracts. Affirmative Action upset many by offering unfair benefits to those who often did not rightfully earn them which led to the decision by many states such as California to ban the practice of benefits based on race and sex.

The sixties was a crazy decade for our country. Many political and social boundaries were rewrote and lines drawn and erased. African Americans continued to their fight for equal rights, sometimes even erupting into violent conflict. The public school system began to integrate children based on color and other ethnic minority groups began to ask for rights which they thought were theirs. The sixties introduced the program of affirmative action which helped give minorities a much needed edge in the workplace, so much thou that now it is no longer needed. This decade cannot be thrown away in the history of America, the society of our country was changed radically that the future was dynamically shaped in a short ten years.

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