1950 and the 1960s civil rights movements and racism according to Bell Hooks

Term Paper

1950’s and the 1960’s civil rights movements and racism according to Bell Hooks







Reasons why the 1950’s and the 1960’s civil rights movements were successful, as compared to the failed efforts of earlier Civil Rights. Also, how the approach of direct action of a non –violent nature became successful after the Second World War.

Racial barriers were eliminated following events that were related to movements of Civil Rights in the United States. In the year 1954, the decision regarding the Brown v. Board of Education was a notable achievement. In the year 1965, the Voting Rights Act ensured that Americans would all have equal rights. Furthermore, it ensured that changes would take place in the sectors that were, political, cultural, as well as social. This means that black people who were earlier discriminated against would enjoy rights like other citizens. The rights of citizens were regulated by the existing government. It means that skin color would no longer be a hindrance towards achieving equal rights. When the word civil rights is mentioned many people think about Martin Luther King Jr. According to King, in ‘Why We Can’t Wait’, the need for blacks to become emancipated was extremely needed. The various inhumane acts performed on black people made King make his voice heard. Some of the incidents highlighted by King include; Young school girls who were black, and were killed by a bomb, while attending Sunday school. There are many other incidents that lead to the civil rights movement and the need for blacks to become activists.

In the 1950’s, the public gained knowledge about civil rights after two issues were highlighted. A victory of a legal nature was won by the NAACP in the year 1954, and it got rid of segregation foundations in the country. Moreover, public schools were no longer to engage in acts of segregation, after a ruling made by the Supreme Court. The latter was termed as being unconstitutional because it violated the rights of African Americans. Americans were meant to obtain education in terms of equality, though it would be obtained separately. The events that followed later were chaotic, as racism and poverty still existed in the American urban slums. President Kennedy tried to calm the tensions that existed in his country by enforcing laws that discouraged it. He ensured that Americans would have their civil rights maintained by federal protection, as well as having segregation banned.

The rise of nationalism among the black people is another reason why the civil rights movements flourished during this time. According to Bell Hook in the book ‘Ain’t I A Woman’, blacks were becoming informed about their rights, and they had to fight in order to achieve it. On the other hand, King advocated for an approach of action that was direct as well as non violent. Unfortunately, this did not go down well with revolutionaries particularly in the North. Religious leaders, college students and bold African Americans were instrumental in their fight for equal achievement. The approaches they used were non violent as they sort to engage in legal challenges tactics. Other similar approaches used by the African Americans include freedom rides, marches and even sit ins. These initiatives lead to African Americans attaining protection and equal opportunity in their country. Social change had to be attained at any cost, mostly through means that were non violent. The latter was in a bid to fight against racial inequality in the country. Peaceful challenges were embraced in order to ensure that racist institutions changed, and there would not be any attacks, which were bloody. Segregation became nullified after the high court passed a ruling on the Plessy v. Ferguson case. It meant that whites who engaged in racist acts faced being prosecuted. The other incident, which took place, involved Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This is referred to as the best example of the civil rights movement, whereby it gained momentum towards achieving equal opportunities. The boycotters were persistent in their efforts until the courts realized that blacks were gaining power. In turn, the Jim Crow was banned, and more progress was to take place. The whites now knew that blacks were determined as well as united, in order to bring about effective change.

Finally, policy makers in the government were known to be slow moving, as they were offered choices by organizations led by African Americans. The latter is a reason for the success of civil rights movements due to the approach they chose to use. Some of the legendary black activists who will forever be known for their contribution to the movement of civil rights were Malcolm X and Martin King. They advocated for what is known as power among black people. Malcolm X was known for various street rages while, on the other hand, King was a pacifist. People who represented change that is peaceful were chosen as leaders by the country’s policy makers. Mahatma Gandhi and Henry Thoreau were the two principle influences that made King adopt a non violent approach. This is the reason why civil rights movements of the 1950’s, as well as that of the 1960’s were successful.

The meaning of racism according to Bell Hooks in accordance to specific events, which took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Also, the reason why racism is described as being institutional and not being dependent among individuals.

In the year 1981, Bell Hook published the book ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ that focuses on feminism and black women. She explains how black women were affected by racism during the civil rights movement. It is during slavery that racism and sexism converged, and during this time, black women suffered immensely. They were subjected to unfavorably conditions as well as being accorded low status in the American society. Federick Douglass a known abolitionist among the black people was popular among suffragists and abolitionists who were white. On the other hand, immorality and promiscuity were the stereotypes that existed among black people. The latter is according to segregationists who came from the southern community. Black women were not spared from harassment when they spoke as white reformers were quick to attack them. This is a reason why Bell Hooks claims that racism was not directed upon individuals but on institutions. The latter in this case refers to women in the black community. After the Rosa Parks Incident, women become aware that they had a purpose in society. They had to stand up in order to have control over their lives.

Bell argues that it was during slavery that the stereotypes affecting women were established. In fact, even up to date this stereotyping still exists in some parts of the world. On the other hand, the white women were stereotyped as being virgin goddesses, and this is due to effects of slavery. In turn, black women were viewed as whores who were seductive and this put a large burden upon their lives. Furthermore, this is why during the civil rights movement many black women were raped, and their feminity devalued. The black women were even discriminated at the work place and often were left to work in jobs not suitable for human beings. This shows that women who were white were demonstrating behavior that was emasculating. Moreover, Bell believes that the movements that took place during the period of Black Nationalism were discriminatory. She claimed that they were misogynists as well as patriarchal, as they sort to increase their strength. Also, these movements were trying to ensure that racial divisions in society were overcome. This is what is known as black matriarch emasculating that latched upon the various black leaders. Bell criticizes such theories, which were common with a man known as Daniel Moynihan Patrick.

According to Bell, feminist movements were involved the upper and middle class of the American society. This means that white women who belonged to lower classes were not spared from being discriminated against. In turn, classism, racism and sexism were reinforced during the period of the civil rights movements. She points out that this is why many women did not participate in the 1970’s feminist moments. Changes were mostly needed by black women as compared to white women. The latter advocated for their rights in secret and were not as vocal as black women. The matter concerning race became rhetoric due to its, extreme volatile nature. Manhood was often viewed as the symbol of freedom and thus the reason why black masculinity was popular. These notions lead to women’s and men’s liberty, as well as integrity being undermined. The sexuality of black women had to be controlled according to black men who were involved in the civil rights movement.

The word in institutional racism was introduced by Kwame Ture, and this is during the period of the 1960’s. The need to ensure that personal bias was distinguished from race made him introduce the term. Together with King, they were not pleased with white moderates in their society. The lather thought that personal transformation among the white people was the reason for their being a civil rights movement. There were various places whereby institutional racism was witnessed. They include; power halls, ghetto streets as well as voting booths. The result is that racial discrimination in America was real, pervasive as well as destructive. For example, the white ensured that schools attended by black children would not obtain funding from the government. This means that the agenda of institutional racism was being advanced by such agendas, which had a negative impact. For example, most attacks on black people were aimed at churches. This is because the black people were deeply involved in matters related to church. The white people took advantage and attacked leaders of the black churches. This is the reason why King was arrested during the Birmingham incident. Furthermore, more attacks were done upon people who were attending church services. An example is the young girls who lost their lives while in church after being bombed.


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