Civil Rights Movement About Inalienable Rights

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On July 4th, 1776, the goals and ideals of The United States of America was founded on a single document called the Declaration of Independence. Ever since then, we have been using this historical document as a guiding principle for the citizens of the United States. In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson declares that everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights. The rights in the declaration include that all men are created equal, men have certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When these rights are broken by any governing body, individuals have the right to alter or abolish the government. Although Jefferson declares these rights as inalienable, in reality, not everyone had the liberty to them except white men who had the privilege of having these rights. For example, slaves in Colonial America had little to no rights at all, proving that these rights are can in fact be taken away. Although we have made significant steps in making these rights available to everyone through laws like the Civil Rights Act, and Women’s Suffrage, in modern times not everybody has the equal rights that Jefferson claims to be inalienable due to the social structure that our country currently has in place.

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To start off, Jefferson states that all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but at the time, slavery was a big factor for the United States. Slaves in the country were primarily people from Africa that were shipped to America by boat in inhumane conditions. They were then used as a way to exploit humans for their labor in order to generate capital without fair compensation to the slaves. Even Jefferson himself owned many slaves in that era, and so did many other privileged Americans. As a slave in the United States, one did not have the right to life, liberty, nor the pursuit of happiness. Americans treated slaves as if they were an object they owned rather than a human being. One example of this is the Slave Market; in the 1850s America had slave auctions in which slaves were displayed on public podiums, inspected, and bid on by potential buyers. Buyers examined the slaves by “pulling their mouths open to see their teeth, pinching their limbs to find how muscular they were”(Hart). Treating them as if they were animals in a pet store, slave owners did not give them the decent respect that a human should deserve. Although America was founded on the principle of all men would be created equal, through these actions, slave owners displayed their inadequate regard for the freedoms and rights of slaves. Because the majority of slaves that were brought to America were African, this developed a negative stigma towards people of color. This mentality that the Americans developed early on will have a rippling effect on racial minorities in the future of the United States.

Eventually, African Americans were eventually freed from slavery and given protection under United States law in 1865, but they were still highly discriminated against and did not receive all the rights they deserved. After over a century of mistreatment, African Americans finally banded together throughout America in the 1950s and ‘60s to stand up for the constitutional right to be treated equally as promised in the Declaration of Independence. This movement would later on be recognized as the Civil Rights Movement which started because of a woman named Rosa Parks. She refused to give up her seat on a bus when a white passenger entered the bus, which sparked bus boycotts all around. This movement evolved and then was primarily led by Martin Luther King Jr.. During this time, African Americans had many large non-violent protests to demonstrate that they would not stoop down to the hateful nature of the white men that discriminated against them. Through a series of civil right demonstrations in combination with their sheer persistence and determination, the African American people in the United States achieved their goal of equality when the Civil Rights Law of 1964 was passed. This outlawed discrimination against anyone regardless of their race or color of their skin. After a long battle against the United States, African Americans finally got the rights that they deserved and the discrimination was eventually minimized after this.

Now in the 21st-century society is more equal than it has ever been in the past but it is not perfect. Although it is not the perfect country that Jefferson declared it would be, our current society grants life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to everyone living in the United States borders. This does not mean that everyone is granted the same experience with these laws. Currently, the United States has a social structure consisting of the upper, middle, working, and lower class citizens. The class that someone is in is almost completely dependant on the amount of money they make. The upper class is privileged with much more freedom in their life than the lower class. For example, if someone is born in the upper class they already have the financial resources available to them which allows them to pursue their goals and aspirations much sooner than the lower class. Whereas if someone is born in the lower class they start off with almost nothing. They have to work for financial resources just to pursue the goals that they dream of. Unfortunately, lower-class citizens often do not get the chance to pursue their dreams because they spend the majority of their life working almost every day just to provide the necessities to their families and themselves. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be born in the middle class. In hindsight, I am much more privileged than I thought I was when I was a kid. For example, as a child, I thought that going to college was an expectation that my parents had of me but in reality, it is a privilege that is only available if you have the money. To some, higher education is merely an unattainable dream.

When the Declaration of Independence was first written by Thomas Jefferson he declared life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men. Ever since then we have come a long way to make this as true as possible, from the times when slaves were treated like animals, to breaking the chains of segregation in the civil rights movement, to finally living in a society where everyone has the basic privileges that Jefferson claims are inalienable. Even though it is not perfect today because of the different social classes we have, this cannot be necessarily be resolved. We will always need people to work the jobs that we associate with the lower class like farming and retail workers as they are they are the foundation of our country. Only a select few from the lower class can achieve the American dream of economic success through hard work and sacrifice. Our society is ever-changing, in the future it is possible that we can achieve a completely equal society where everyone has equal opportunity but, it will require a like-minded leader that can make these reforms happen while still keeping the capitalistic structure that we currently have.

29 April 2022

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