Positive Protests As A Way To Better Changes

America; land of the free and home of the brave. When one asks what this country is and what it strives to represent, this is the answer. A land where everyone is equal, no matter race, gender or religion. Where people are free to be who they are without oppression or fear. Truly, America is a land of opportunity. Yet, as it is with most things, however, there is more behind the mask. Unfortunately, this is the case with the United States of America. When a deeper look is taken, this statement that was so proudly and boldly claimed does not ring completely true. This country, while it does provide all that it promises and more for those who are luckily, significantly overlooks and undervalues others. These are marginalized and oppressed people, who because of their race, religion, or gender are treated unfairly. This is not inline with the promise of equality that was offered. Yet, this is not the end of the story. Just as a person can grow and change, strive to become the best version of themselves, America can to. Through the use of proactive protest, America has begun to shift and change, slowing becoming the country that they promised they were. While change is not easy, especially when it comes to social institutions, it has begun to happen. Historically, there have been significant religious and feminist protests that have grown and shaped America. America, through the use of proactive protests, has promoted and achieved positive change for marginalized and oppressed people.

One result of positive protests has been the rise of feminism. Women in the United States were long seen as the weaker sex. Their role was pretty straightforward: to be a housewife and raise children. Any consideration of manual or intellectual work was laughable… there was no way that a women could do that! As it is now commonly understood this is far from the truth. The feminist protest movement began in the late eighteenth century/early nineteenth with a book and sequel titled A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft. Sparking the first wave of feminism, women across races and socioeconomic status began to voice their opinions about the inequality that they were facing. Most notable among them was Abigail Adams, at the time current first lady, as well as famous abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During July 1848 the Seneca Falls Convention was organized which resulted in the Declaration of Sentiments. This declaration stated fundamental rights that women were denied. Yet it took seventy-odd years for their pleas to be heard. With World War One, many women took over jobs that had previously been held by men.

Finally able to prove themselves and the obvious equality that they deserved, the United States government made a decision. They ratified the 19th Amendment allowing women the ability to vote. Fast-forward to World War 2 where Rosie the Riveter ignited the second wave of feminism in America. Then in 1966, the National Organization for Women (NOW) was born, which is currently still the largest women’s liberation organization. NOW has organized many protests and movements since its birth. Its first, due to the hot topic of Roe v. Wade, was the 1992 March for Women’s Lives, a national success. The second March for Women’s Lives in 2004 had a 1. 4 million turnout and was motivated by immigration, LGBTQ issues as well as the needs of indigenous women and women of color. (Orleck, 2016) So, for feminism, has protest and activism worked to create positive change? The answer is yes. What started out as strong systematic bias against women has been successfully shifted to promote equality between the sexes. Take for example 2016 presidential runner-up Hillary Clinton. Her success would not have been possible without the sacrifices of those before her.

Another successful set of protests in the United States is that of race, specifically those of African American descent. Their story is truly one that shows why protests and standing up for basic human rights really does achieve positive results. Though there had been many revolts against slavery in the United States, it was not until around the 1830’s that protests began. The abolitionist movement was started by slaves as well as religious groups such as the Quakers. William Lloyd Garrison, a strong voice for the radical abolitionist movement and avid antislavery activist, started a newspaper known as The Liberator in 1831. It was antislavery northerners such as himself that founded the Underground Railroad which helped anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 slaves reach freedom. History. com notes how the Underground Railroad and the persistence of the abolitionist aided in positive results. The success of the Underground Railroad helped spread abolitionist feelings in the North; it also undoubtedly increased sectional tensions, convincing pro–slavery southerners of their northern countrymen’s determination to defeat the institution that sustained them. (Editors, 2009)

The road to change is not a painless one, however, while hopefully most protests never turn deadly, this was not the case for African Americans in the United States. In 1861, the United States saw the bloodiest war of its life. Known as the Civil War, it was a great cry to abolish slavery and to bring freedom and equality to this country. It resulted in what is now known as the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. On January 1st 1863, the president stated that slaves ”shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free. ” Though a tremendous victory and catalyst for change, African American people were still being oppressed in the United States. Known as ‘separate but equal,’ people of color were required to be separate from white people in all things. This segregation lead to a rekindling of the abolitionist movement that had ended after the war. Known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP, they sought to end segregation, bring about equal education and to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments. The vital work of the NAACP lead to the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920’s. Also known as the Black Renaissance or the New Negro Movement, the Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics turned their attention seriously to African–American literature, music, art and politics… Its influence had stretched around the world, opening the doors of mainstream culture to black artists and writers. (Editors, 2009)

This was very very significant for the achievement of positive change for African Americans in the United States. Now that their voice had begun to be heard, this was the turning point. During World War 2, people of color were able to fight and die for their country and received full integration within the U. S. Armed Forces. In 1947, Jackie Robinson made history with his breakthrough into baseball, which lead to the integration of other sports such as basketball and tennis. Arguably the biggest advocate for black rights was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A true powerhouse, Dr. King was the pinnacle of proof that activism and protests achieve real positive results. The work that he accomplished is still relevant today. Today, protests and activism in the United States primarily takes the form of the Black Lives Matter movement. They fight to end the oppression that black people currently face. Due to the success of previous generations, people of color have achieved vast amounts of positive change.

Throughout the history of the United States, protests and activism have helped to achieve equality and change of the oppressed. Since the birth of this country, women have had a significant disadvantage. Through protests, big changes have been made. Their collective voice is now heard. They have a place in society that is not second to men, but equal. The same thing goes for the African American community. They started out as slaves, but through the impressive work of abolitionists and activists positive change has come about. Now, why is it so important that the full history of each group is understood? When looking at current cries from women and the black community alike their protests can seem repetitive. But that is what has to happen for change, and that is what is going to have to continue happening. Neither group has achieved full obliteration of oppression. They still face challenge to end the bigotry, racism or chauvinism.

So, because the protests will continue, understanding history and what can be achieved will be the fuel. Some have argued that protests have not helped the advancement of causes in the United State. It is evident that this is not the case. Protests have brought about great change and this country would not be in the same place without them. The United States would still be as it was before, a racist, chauvinistic country where only the voices of some are heard. A country where the mask looks good and equality seems to be possible but in reality it is not the case. America, however, can and will change. We can be the land of the free and home of the brave; a land where equality is truly achieved.

15 April 2020
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