12 Pages, Grade: 1,5
5. ‘As more Black Americans become middle income Americans the integrationist dream of the Civil Rights Movement has been substantially accomplished.’ Discuss in relation to the situation of ‘Black Americans’ in the 21st century.
More than 39 years ago the African-American leader Martin Luther King gave his famous speech “I have a dream” in front of 250,000 people in Washington D.C. He referred to the situation of African-Americans in 1863 when former President Abraham Lincoln signed “The Emancipation Proclamation” to free African-Americans from being slaves. In his speech King stated that “the Negro still is not free” (King 1963) and shared his dream of freedom and equality with the crowd – a day when “every hill and mountain shall be made low” (ibid.). This was the peak of the US Civil Rights Movement (between 1955 and 1968) which aimed to bring full civil rights and equality under the law primarily to African American citizens in a non-violent way. It successfully put an end to racial segregation, especially in the southern states. Has the integrationist dream of the Civil Rights Movement come true or are African Americans still dreaming?
Another dream being a basic element of the American culture is the American Dream. It expresses the belief in equality by promising that even if you start from the bottom of society, you can achieve everything as long as you work hard enough. King’s integrationist dream is quite similar. He claims “the opportunity to work and acquire the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our forefathers set forth in the Declaration of Independence” (Lamptey 2001, p.2) for African-Americans as well as for every other American. The USA is famous for the belief in treating everybody the same without reference to traits stemming from birth, religion, gender or colour - and their meritocratic values. “The best man for the best job” is one of the slogans. But those values could not be shared by African-Americans before the emergence of the Black Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Equality in the eyes of the law does not answer to what extent equality is realised in everyday life and if the integrationist dream of the Civil Rights Movement has been substantially accomplished as more African-Americans become middle income Americans. By many measures, race relations have never been better. The African-American middle class has increased but African-American poverty still exists. Economist Peter Drucker sums up the post-World War II changes: “In the fifty years since the Second World War the economic position of African-Americans in America has faster improved than that of any other group in American social history – or in the social history of any country. Three fifth of America’s blacks rose into middle-class incomes; before Second World War the figure was one twentieth” (Putnam 2000, p. 22). Earning powers of African-Americans have increased, but they are still substantially worse off than White Americans. The Census Bureau rated in 2004/05 that the median earnings of Black men (32,686$) are the 3rd highest (ahead of “other ethnicities”) after Asian men (46,888$) and Non-Hispanic White men (45,573$). But there is still a great gap between the median income of White and Black men (see Fronczek 2005, p.2). Black children were more likely to live in low-income homes than White children (Patterson, C. J., J. B. Kupersmidt, and N. A. Vaden, 2003).
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