APR 16, 2014, 12:30 PM
Dawud Walid: A ways yet to go since the signing of the Civil Rights Act
The recent marking of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a reminder of how far we’ve come as a nation, yet shows that we have a ways to go for racial, gender and religious equality in America.
Decades of activism, which came to a crescendo at the March on Washington in 1963 paved the way for President Lyndon B. Johnson signing this landmark civil rights legislation into law. The Act made it illegal for municipal, state and federal government agencies, as well as corporations, to deny access to individuals for accommodations and services and provided penalties for those who discriminate in employment and housing based upon race, national origin, gender and religious affiliation. It was perhaps the most important legislation of the past 100 years.
Without this law, we can only guess if America would have Black, Latino and Muslims holding local and state public offices in the South, or women serving as corporate executives. America, however, still has a long way to go.
According to Pew Research, black incarceration rates in comparison to whites were actually higher in 2010 than in 1960, during the Jim Crow era.
The majority of the incarcerations are due to non-violent drug offenses. This increase relates to more subtle institutionalized racism among law enforcement and prosecutors. Given that whites use and sell drugs at roughly the same percentage of their demographics, the incarceration rates should reflect this. That is, if the justice system was in fact just.
To this day, women earn 77 cents to the dollar of men earn in workplaces when both genders educational levels are on par. Women, who make up about half of the population, only comprise approximately 16% of board members of major corporations. In the U.S. Congress, women are not as well represented as women in parliaments of developing countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Senegal.
In recent years, including one high-profile case in New York City, there have been organized efforts to block the establishment or relocation of houses of worship and private schools for Muslims.
Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema is one of several politicians who continues to speak about American Muslims as second class citizens. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Oakland County GOP hosted a speaker who incites fears that Muslims are secretly attempting to supplant our laws, a tactic that was invoked against Japanese Americans during World War II.
As people of goodwill, we must remain vigilant in protecting civil rights and restoring some which have subtly eroded since 9/11.
But bigotry can’t be legislated away. The recent fatal shooting of three people by a white supremacist outside two Kansas City area Jewish community centers is but a painful reminder. What we can do is push for more inclusion and equality in our country by looking at the roots of inequality in America and work to further marginalize the voices of intolerance in our society.