Civil Rights In America
By Joni Douglas
The subject of civil rights seems to be a hot topic for most Americans. We fluctuate daily on what is considered to be a violation of someone’s civil rights. For instance, our public school officials have the right to enter into the private domain of the student’s locker. Technically, that is a violation of the students civil rights. However, we as citizens have overruled that standing to say that since the locker is on school property, the school is the ultimate authority and as long as adequate protections are made for the student’s rights, the locker itself is subject to searches. Here, the right of the many overrules the rights of the one. However, the civil rights dispute is far from over regarding privacy issues.
We have enacted laws and amendments to address the issue of civil rights. Forty years ago, civil rights disputes focused mainly of the equal rights for blacks. Although written into the Constitution that they hold all the same rights as other Americans, the actual receipt of these benefits had failed to materialize.
Separate but equal was far from the truth. With the success of rallies, scheduled protest and marches, civil rights took center stage and amendments followed. Civil rights activists on behalf of women and gays have tried the same tact but have so far have not been as successful in claiming specialized civil rights.
The civil right cases that currently draw our attention are:
- Sexual harassment discrimination,
- Workplace discrimination.
- The mention of God and manger scenes, top the list every Christmas season as religious discrimination.
- Discrimination against illegal immigrants is on the rise resulting in new case law.
- Age discrimination has long been an issue involving civil rights disputes in the workplace.
- Law enforcement and Miranda rights take center stage as the civil rights accorded terrorists are decided and judged.
- Americans with disabilities have lobbyists guarding against discrimination.
- Racism and reverse racism resulting in a whole new phase of troubling hate crimes continues to be a top priority in civil rights disputes.
Civil rights disputes erupt when the rights of one are trampled on either by another or by a group. Our pursuit of happiness may not impinge upon another person’s pursuit. Saying it is easy, accomplishing it isn’t always so. Therefore, we have enacted laws, amendment so those laws and even local statutes that ensure the people’s civil rights.
- Workplace discrimination and workplace sexual harassment were both addresses in the federal law remedies for workplace discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Religious discrimination disputes are in the courts constantly and also reference the Civil Rights act of 1964. The standard bearer for religious freedom is, of course the First Amendment granting Freedom of Religion. This, argues the court, may keep government out of religion but it also keeps religion out of government, leading to many civil rights disputes since our laws are based on a belief in God.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1999 expanded civil rights to include illegal workers. A commission is under way at this time to revisit the issue.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) 1967 addressed the issue with cases still setting precedent.
- Ongoing civil rights disputes erupt over law enforcement discrimination and are usually as case by case rarely setting a national precedence. That may change with the highly publicized cases in the news today.
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, forbids discrimination of the disabled. Changes were made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 to clarify and revise the meaning of the word “disability.”
- The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and the Voting Rights followed in 1965. This granted all Americans equal rights regardless of their race, religion or creed. The civil rights disputes that fall under this category have appeared before the court numerous times since the original bill was passed. Major civil rights advocates are calling for this issue to be addressed again.