Civil Rights Movement


     Most of us, being United States citizens, would like to believe that
everyone in this country is living in conditions of utmost freedom and equality.

Although according to the constitution this is true, anyone who has ever been
the victim of oppression knows not to take equality for granted. Our society has
slowly grown to accept the different types of people that live in our country;
it is now a lot less common to see people’s rights such as freedom and
equality being abused. However, the influences of the past, when the living
conditions were far less then equal for many groups of people, can still be
witnessed today. A fine example of this could be seen through the way in which
housing discrimination led to the colonization of Blacks into their own
neighborhoods and communities, which eventually led to the creation of ghettos
and gangs. Racism, in itself, is a belief that a person holds; it forces another
being to be placed at a lower status within one’s mind and in the society as a
whole. Keeping Blacks and other minorities at a lower level was the principal
state of mind for many of the whites during the early part of the twentieth
century. This kind of mentality exists in our society till this day among
certain groups of people. The cold and harsh manner with which the Blacks were
treated takes us all the way back to slavery. Back in those days the majority of
this country’s population accepted it. The oppressed African Americans
eventually began to become more organized and started to fight for the civil
rights they deserved as citizens of the United States. Despite the attempts of
the Civil Rights Movement, much damage was already done; unfortunately many
minds were already tarnished with negative images of what the Black person was
and could ever be. In spite of the fact that many Black people were working
towards moving up and making a life for themselves, racism continuously kept
them from advancing in the society. In the early part of the twentieth century
racism placed a strong precedent for the way in which Blacks are today. After
the civil war more and more free Blacks began to migrate north. They were
seeking the possibility of "better social and economic opportunities"
(Abrams 10). The high hopes were soon brought back down, as the Blacks were
welcomed to the cities by the overwhelming mentality of the masters looking down
on their slaves. They encountered landlord after landlord turning them away
because of their unwillingness to rent to Blacks and other newly migrated
minorities. It was this constant refusal to integrate housing that eventually
caused the creation of minority driven neighborhoods. Since the majority of the
whites turned their backs on Blacks and the other minorities, African Americans
were forced into forming the types of communities that contained people of their
race and poor financial state. Many of them came looking to move ahead in their
new lives that they were recently granted by the constitution; but they were
only pushed to join the fairly new neighborhoods, which were slums compared to
those inhabited by the dominating white residences. The reason for this type of
segregation could be explained as another tool of racism for the white man’s
advantage. The effects of these neighborhoods were more damaging then the simple
prevention of Blacks and other minorities from integrating with the whites. By
zoning the individual into compartments determined by color, it excluded the
opportunity for a fusion of interests. By confining children to separate
neighborhood schools and playgrounds, it sharpened the lines of distinction and
developed illusions of superiority...It was in housing that segregation received
its greatest impetus and momentum. Once rooted there the segregation pattern
spread unattested until the Negro ghetto became an accepted part of the American
landscape (Abrams 7). "Local authorities used every available weapon to keep
the blacks divided; housing was simply the physical expression of this racial
policy" (Rudwick 10). Even if a family was able to afford housing in a
predominantly white neighborhood, they were still not allowed to move in there.

Despite the slow improvement of their economic status Blacks still possessed

"...no freedom to move elsewhere. American slums (were) no longer exclusively
the product of a discrepancy between rent and wages" (Abrams 10). After being
forced to confine themselves to such neighborhoods it was only a matter of time
before it was not just the housing that was segregated, it was also an abundant
amount of social segregation as well. Blacks came to larger cities hoping to
find a piece of the pie and a deserving amount of acceptance, but instead they
were given ghetto style housing environments and the same type of racist
attitude they had previously lived with in the south. These people had no choice
but to come together as equals within their own ghetto community where an
abundance of acceptance and support might be felt. The Black Panther Party was
founded in 1966, it was one of the first organized Black "gangs". This
organization was created to help in the efforts towards the survival of the
black race (Meier 23). Despite the changes made as a result of the Civil Rights

Movement and all its court cases very little was done to change the way in which
the Blacks were seen. It was therefore up to the Black community to either
continue being oppressed or to come together and help one another to fight back
for equality and their rights. "Emerging in the Fall of 1966 from the most
depressed sections of the white police-ridden Black ghetto of Oakland,

California, the Black Panther Party for Self-defense (had) in a remarkable short
time been raised by its leadership to be an extremely significant force in the
political battles against the American reaction" (Newton 163). The soon to be

Black Panther Party was formed from the people who were basically given no
choice but to band together using the neighborhood that they were being
restricted to as their only shelter. One big difference between the Black

Panther Party and the gangs of today is that the Panthers originated with
certain survival goals in mind. There were a total of ten points involved in the
program that the Party initially worked for, ranging from freedom, to
employment, to education, to military exemptions, all the way to equality in
housing (Newton 31). In working towards these goals it was essential to pay
close attention to the Panthers’ primary job, which was "to provide
leadership for the people" (Meier 46). Leadership lessons had to be taught to
the followers in order to gain a larger following through study, observation,
and experience (Newton 14). The duties and goals that the Black Panther Party
had sat forth for itself to pursue were overwhelming and "for a time the Black
panther Party lost its vision and defected from the community" (Newton 45).

Despite the fact that a giant step had been taken away from unity and away from
the movement towards change and integration, the organization was still able to
stay together. The Ten-Point Program was said to be the reason that the group
was able to have survived those times and also "because it (served) the true
interests of oppressed people and administer(ed) to their needs" (Newton 46).

Another aspect of the Black Panther Party was the fact that it temporarily
separated itself "from the Black community so that it was a war between the
oppressor and the Black Panther Party, not a war between the oppressor and the
oppressed community" (Newton 51). The Party took hold of one side of the
battle in an attempt to be able to change the way in which "the oppressor",
or the white man, was working against the Black community. In a sense, the
organization was a mediator in this fight for change. It was "originally a
political weapon of self-defense by Black people" (Meier 23). When more and
more Black people began to come together it became easier for them to fight for
the causes that they believed in. It was easier to be noticed as an influential
group and viewed as a possible threat when a large amount of organized
individuals were pulled together to make noise and work towards change. "We
have drawn a line of demarcation and we will no longer tolerate fascism,
aggression, brutality, and murder of any kind" (Newton 21). The Black Panther

Party in pursuing their goals also chose to be a Marxist-Leninist party; they
chose to use both theory and practice (Meier 37). This approach had not yet been
pirsued within the Civil Rights struggle and succeeded in gaining attention. The

Blacks worked towards what were considered "real goals: survival, liberation
and freedom" (Newton 189), rather then the often times unrealistic goals set
forth by some other Civil Rights movements. The concepts that the Black Panther

Party worked with were seen as threatening, but at the same time inspiring.

After all, how could success not be reached when a race came together to fight
against those who ridicule them and treat them unfairly. The efforts were many
and they tried to work closely with the powers that could make the desired
changes. Unfortunately not everything could be changed with the officials who
sat in the higher levels of say. Furthermore, the environment that Black
citizens were living in contained just too many economically and sociologically
disadvantaged Blacks. A lot of these people failed to allow a grander and more
permanent change within the ghettos that they called their homes. Today Blacks
are often stereotyped as being useless trouble causing, gang affiliated
nobodies. In some areas of the country the previous statement can be considered
true. In many of the larger cities, such as Los Angeles, there are many gangs
along with and problems associated with the majority of blacks and other
minorities living in certain areas. Although these large cities are considered
diverse, they are more correctly a haven and a melting pot for those people who
have been permanently glued to the ghetto lifestyle. These neighborhoods are
constantly being criticized and looked down upon. The individuals residing in
these ghettos are stereotyped as hoodlums who will get nowhere. The faces that
live within these ghettos and those that are part of the gangs of today can
serve to explain why these stereotypes are so often true. Many of the people
living in the big cities have no other place than the streets to turn to. In the
streets they find other kids, much like themselves, who have formed a gang in
order to survive. Within the gang all the members work together to take care of
one another. In this ghetto city lifestyle support, even if it is in the form of
a gang, is very important. Many city officials, however, are frightened by the
figured that are related to the gangs. New policies are being discussed to
determine what characteristics can be associated with possible gang members, in
order to catch them. All this is done in an effort to reduce the amount of gang
members wandering on the streets. In an extreme tactic it was suggested to close
off entire neighborhoods to Black youths who have done nothing more than dress
in blue or black clothing or associate with others who do so; they would
authorize criminal penalties for ordinary, non-disruptive acts of walking or
driving through a residential neighborhood with a relative or a friend (Shoop,

Gang Warfare 12). Although most of the law officials in the San Jose area, where
this proposal was first suggested are in agreement with this type of strategy,
many activist groups are saying that this type of enforcement will cause"fairly large restrictions on freedom" (Shoop, Gang Warfare 13). It is not
enough to have the law officials continuously trying to arrest and threaten a
group of unguided kids, whose numbers are continuously growing due to the lack
of community involvement and support. If the government wants to see change it
must work with the cities to turn things around, starting at the bottom, or
rather the beginning of the problem. I don’t know how much can be done to move
these minority groups away from the ghettos, but perhaps with some help
something can be done to right the wrong that began over a hundred years ago (Shoop,

Image of Fear 12). In similar case law enforcement agencies also developed
profiles for youth that may be associated with gangs. Despite all the negative
reactions to this idea, the law enforcement believes that "it is a logical,
efficient way to identify and mother dangerous youths" (Shoop, Image of fear

12). Civil rights advocates who are against this proposal believe that the
police will be finding and arresting more youth due to the fact that they fit
their profile rather then whether or not they really do associate with a gang.

It is believed that the profiles that these teens share are similar regardless
of whether or not they are involved with a gang. Already teens have been"thrown out of shopping malls, ejected from amusement parks, and stopped and
searched by police, who may later enter their names and photos into the computer
databases" (Shoop, Image of fear 14). In my opinion this is definitely a
violation of certain civil rights. Police are taking action before they have
proper cause to do so. Although I do agree that much of the gang activity is
becoming quite out of control, I feel that it is necessary to have a crime
committed before going ahead and labeling these teens as gangsters just based on
their appearances. It may appear to be easy for an outsider to suggest that
these people should simply find their way out of these hopeless neighborhoods
and cities and start new lives. Once again, as it was already proven in the
past, this is not as easy as it may seem. The lives that these people are living
are not ones that they were forced to accept and live with. Although the initial
gangs were created as a type of defense, the gangs eventually escalated towards
taking action on hate and tension that they have towards other rival gangs, even
against gangs whose races are both primarily the same. The issue of civil rights
and equality, which were the major factors, involved with the gangs of the
sixties, evolved into the often materialistic issues that today’s gangs fight
and kill for. Territory and mere hate are the principal factors that are
involved in the tensions between gangs today. Even if we were to understand the
cause of what created these gangs, we are not guaranteed that we could find a
solution to put an end to that sub-culture. There are no signs that the end of
gang violence will be reached anytime soon. It is important to see that because
the discriminations Black people had to deal with in the early part of the 20th
century had a very significant effect on the lives of the future generations.

Forced to live in designated neighborhoods, Blacks were never able to break the
cycle of poverty that they lived in and continued to raise families in the same
type of environment. Although gangs are a big issue in the ghetto type cities,
it is important to understand and to realize that gangs were not placed there
because a group of rebellious juvenile delinquents wanted to cause problems.

They were eventually created because of the prejudice that another group felt
towards their race and community.

Bibliography

Books Abrams, Charles.

Race Bias in Housing. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, Inc., 1964. Meier,

August; Rudwick, Elliot. Black Protest in the Sixties.Chicago:The New York Times

Company, 1970. Newton, Huey P. To Die For the People. New York: Random House,

1972. Rudwick, Elliot; John H. Bracey, Jr and August Meier, eds. The Rise of the

Ghetto. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company Inc., 1971. Journals Shoop, J.G.

"Gang warfare: legal battle pits personal liberty against public safety."

Trial. V34, n3 (1998):12-16. Shoop, J.G. "Image of fear: minority teens allege
bias in ‘gang profiling.’" Trial. V30, n10 (1994): 12-15