How does the Civil Rights movement connect to global economic equality? How much has really changed from the Civil Rights movement to present day?
Economic equality is largely based around an individual’s social or economic class. This means economic equality is built or structured upon whether an individual is high class, middle class, or low class. Economic equality doesn’t exist in to our present society or world because it would mean that everybody would be economically equal. That, of course, is not the case.
The Civil Rights movement started in the US in 1955 because, after the reconstruction era, African Americans lost political power. The Civil Rights movement was really sparked by a 43 year old African American woman named Rosa Parks. Parks was arrested on December 5, 1955 for sitting in the front of a public transit bus and refusing to get up when there were no vacant seats for a white man. At the time buses were segregated and African Americans had to sit at the back of the bus. This then led to the Montgomery bus boycott. The murder of Emmett Till also contributed to the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Till was a 14 year old, African American boy. He was visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi where he entered a small grocery store to buy candy. When he was walking out, he whistled and made eye contact with a 21 year old white woman named Carolyn Bryant. A few nights later Carolyn Bryant´s husband Roy Bryant and his brother J.W Milam went to Till´s uncle´s house and kidnapped Emmett Till. The brothers beat Till until his eye was eventually gouged out, they then shot him in the head, tied him up with a 70 pound weight, wrapped barbed wire around his neck and throwing what was left of his 14 year old body in the Tallahatchie River where his body was discovered three days later.
Economic equality has in fact worsened in the US since the dark period before the start of the Civil Rights movement in 1955. For example in 1965 in Selma, Alabama peaceful protestors were beaten and gassed on a small steel bridge over the Alabama river where they were marching to get attention for the Civil Rights movement.
The bridge now separates two neighborhoods; one side is a wealthy, white suburban neighborhood and the other side is a boarded up housing project full of smashed windows that is ruled by gangs that control the drug markets of Selma.
Economic inequality exists everywhere across the globe and is a measured by the Gini Coefficient that determines the gaps in income across society. Gini Coefficient ranges from zero where everybody has the same income to one hundred where an individual has the entire income and everyone else has zero income.
Why do we need the Gini Coefficient? One does not have the option to choose what class they’re born into, yet most of us would agree that everybody needs to have an equal opportunity to succeed in a fair manner. High levels of economic inequality it generall considered undesirable in American society. Gini allows economist to guage how well an economy is doing regarding creating economic equality.
For example in Los Angeles, CA the Gini Coefficient is 0.485 and LA has 16.3% of people living in poverty; in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil the Gini Coefficient is 0.519, and Rio has 21.4% living in poverty. When you compare the cities, Rio De Janeiro has a wider income rate compared to Los Angeles because it is closer to 100. However, Los Angeles only has a 5.1% poverty percentage difference between the Rio De Janeiro (1).
A lot has changed for African American students since the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. It was extremely uncommon for African Americans to go to college at the start of the Civil Tights movement. Not only was it uncommon for African Americans to go to University, but 50 years ago 75% of African Americans had not completed high school. Presently, this figure is down to only 15% of black adults today.
In in the Spring of 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. planned the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. The goal of the campaign was to strictly convince President Lyndon Johnson and the Congress to provide the poor with jobs, health care and at least provide decent housing. How would Martin Luther King Jr. achieve this? Dr. King would do this by starting a peaceful march of poor communities, get federal agencies to meet, and would try to get the congress to pass substantial anti-poverty legislation.
An individual may state or claim that economic equality is a bad thing because it doesn’t create enough wealth and makes it harder for the rich or higher class. In fact low economic equality (high Gini Coefficient) actually can lead to serious social problems and can become very corrosive to all classes except the super rich where only a limited number of people own a substantial amount of the wealth in our society.
Here is the history of Gini:
Elizabeth Tuttle, 6 June 2013.
Lohr, Kathy. Diss. 19 June 2008.
Stacy A.Anderson, . N.p.. Web. 14 Jun 2013.