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The Evolution of Civil Rights in America

The Evolution of Civil Rights in America


What is racism? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principle, a political or social system founded on racism, and racial prejudice or discrimination”. However, Missouri native & Drake University graduate, Kennedy Mitchum believes the definition of racism should be revised. According to CNN, Mitchum contacted the esteemed dictionary publisher and to her surprise, she received a response that the company would update the definition of the term racism to include her belief that racism should include “systemic racism”. Mitchum’s statement leads to a more tangible look at racism because in real-time systemic racism practices have oppressed African Americans historically. America is now in the midst of a civil rights movement in the wake of the deaths of many African American men and women by the hands of police.

The untimely death of Minneapolis citizen, George Floyd, has led to protests across the nation of people from all walks of life standing in solidarity for police reform and against systemic racism against African Americans. The Black Lives Matter hashtag has been used on social media as a method of compassion and communication as social media users shared the hashtag to show their support as well as to reveal the reality of racism in America. As an editor of a North Carolina-based cultural lifestyle blog, I felt compelled to post images taken by our photographer, Lanette Lee of Write Productions, on our social media pages. The images show a diverse group of people from various ages and ethnic backgrounds protesting in downtown Raleigh against the murder and racial discrimination African Americans have endured at the hands of the police. It’s one of many nation-wide protests that has gone viral around the internet. Still, in the midst of community protests, we are seeing acts of violence against peaceful protesters and citizens. There have been social media posts raising awareness about police brutality and about how this is affecting police precincts.

There are television programs such as “Cops” and “Live PD” that have been canceled due to the content of violent interactions between police and American citizens. Particularly, the name Javier Ambler has been added to the extensive list of African Americans that have died during interactions with police officers. Ambler’s interaction with police, which led to his death, was filmed and destroyed by “Live PD”. Then there are social media postings about major corporations, public figures, and influencers that have not shown support towards African Americans or the Black Lives Matter movement. There have been captions of “All Lives Matter” and online conversations about the confederate flag. Across America, we are witnessing on major news outlets the removal of confederate statues, flags, and the reconsideration of names of historic buildings.

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It is a time of social change. The youth of America are standing up to a system that was designed centuries ago to oppress people of non-European lineage. America is not only experiencing a civil rights movement but also alarming rates of unemployment and a pandemic of COVID-19. Many nations of people are feeling the tense of a great moment in civil rights history across the world but where do we go from here? How do we keep the momentum from today to Election Day? Should all police officers bear the burden of the choices their colleagues make? Each of these questions has ignited the flame of democracy for all and may we all remember to say their names in the midst of everything.

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