Civil Rights and civil liberties date back to the year 1791 in the United States of America (Bean, 2009). It was during this year that the first amendment to the bill of rights was made. Fifty seven years down the line, a movement was in place representing the civil liberties. This was the civil rights movement. The civil right and liberties have undergone various changes over the years following the many constitutional amendments as well as the dynamics of the federal mandate. Differentiating between civil rights and the civil liberties has been an uphill task to the elite as well as the political layman. Fundamentally, they both refer to some definite protection by the administration in power. Political scientists have described the liberties as some form of protection against some actions by the administration in power. For instance, the civil liberties restrain the government from putting limits to the freedom of worship by the individual. On the other hand, the political gurus have described civil rights as some constructive actions the government should take in order to provide an environment of equal opportunities and conditions to all people within the borders of the country (Walker, 2004). Even so, the term civil rights is used to refer to the safeguarding of the interests of the minority classes. These are those groups that are usually outvoted in democratic processes. This paper seeks to elaborate how the civil rights and liberties started, and the changes they have undergone to reach their current state.
The various amendments to the American constitution over the years have led to the conspicuous alterations in the civil rights and liberties. The changes can be attributed to many reasons. Most notably, the changes can be attributed to the fact that the groups that were defined as minority at the onset of the civil rights and liberties movement are now very different (Freie, 1998). Some of them are no longer considered minorities. For instance, the African Americans are no longer considered a minority like they were back then. In those years, the Africans in America were those that had found themselves there because of the infamous slave trade. They were very few in number and prior to the civil rights and liberties movement; such black people were described as being only a fraction of a human being. They valued the black as being just three fifths of a man (Walker, 1999). Currently, the only difference between a white man and an African-American, save for internal and mental uniqueness, is the skin color. The African Americans are equally many in number and have the same rights as the white American.
During the time when the civil rights lobby group was being established the government was the main employer in the American economy, this meant that the equal employment opportunities had to be based on this fact (Freie, 1998). As the principles of imperialism took root the private sector of the nation grew very steadily and rapidly to the extent that the bigger fraction of people working was either self-employed or employed by some private firm. This again came with the changes in the civil rights to employment. This was implemented to ensure the legal framework was in line with the employment relationships in the economy. Perhaps, the private sector is the U.S is the chief employer (Scheb & Stephens, 2004). This has brought substantial difficulties in the administration of the civil rights relating to employment since the government does not have direct control of the activities and employment practices of the private sector.
Over time, the American citizens have been enjoying the fortification of the liberties and civil rights movements. They have all through enjoyed the protection of the supreme American constitution in relation to the civil rights and freedoms. In the contemporary world, the civil rights and liberties movement is a global affair (Kersch, 2004). Civil protection, is therefore, going global. As such, the American citizen today can enjoy the rights and freedoms within the borders of any nation. Additionally, civil liberties protect even the non-citizens found within the borders of the U.S with or without legal authorization. The issue of the civil rights movement going global cropped up in the early 1960’s with the rise of globalism. Political and social scientists have argued that in the contemporary world, globalism is inevitable.
Political scientist and human rights activist, Thomas Jefferson is known for his famous statement that all men are made equal. This statement was relevant back then but has a lot of irrelevance and a number of inconsistencies if used today (Delgado, 2003). This is because in the 19th century, women were not considered equal to men. They were not eligible of participating in democratic voting processes. They were not offered equal opportunities in many fields including employment. Today the men are equal to women in all aspects. The two participate in the voting process equally. The democratic procedures give the woman the same opportunity as the man (Pohlman, 2008). This contradicts the provisions of the civil rights that were embraced by the society of the 19th and 20th centuries. With the rise in the number of women rights groups as well as, the humanitarian groups on equality, the old civil provisions are irrelevant, and women are today protected under the constitution of America as well as by federal mandate.
Unlike a few years ago, where same sex relationships were strictly illegal and prohibited in some states, homosexuality is a common feature in America today (Kersch, 2004). However, some states remained neutral on the idea for quite a long time. They did not address it in the constitution or any legal documentation. The allowing of gays in the military of U.S in the past decade was the beginning of the scheme that has turned out to be an issue of concern in the political circles of the United States of America. The decision by George Bush to allow women and gay men to join the army has sparked substantial controversy in the civil rights movements as well as, among human rights activists in America. This is because the top military officials are under oath not to ask the gay soldiers anything concerning sexual orientation. This, activists and lawyers argue, infringes the freedom of expression and compels the individuals to live a lie. The attorneys argue that the gay people should be allowed to talk about their sexual orientation. With the coming of the Obama administration, same sex marriages are common and are not prohibited. This is one of the mainly noteworthy changes in the civil rights and liberties.
The 1990 Disabilities Act has catered for the rights of the Americans with disabilities. This was done as a way of remedying the injustices and inequalities experienced by people with physical disabilities (Delgado, 2003). In the years before the civil rights did not provide for such people. Upon the implementation of the act, all public buildings and constructions such hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings were required to include a ramp such that the people using wheelchairs have equal access to the public and social amenities. These were a big step in recognizing that all human beings were and still are equal irrespective of physical wellbeing. The provisions of this Act are implemented and administered by federal mandate.
Significant changes in the rights and civil liberties of America were observed after the September 2001 terrorist attacks (Bean, 2009). The changes were introduced in what has been described as a fortnight legal reconstruction. These changes affected immigration. Restrictions were introduced as a way of restricting immigration of individuals that were suspected to be potential terrorists. The changes in the American immigration law introduced such procedures as search without warrant by the American antiterrorist police. The regular and traffic policemen search the residents without warrant where and when they have enough reason to think or believe that the persons whose houses are being searched could be threats to national security. In conclusion, it is noteworthy that the civil rights and liberties have undergone various modifications to suit the current conditions. The changes could be due to dynamics in the various factors affecting society such as marriage. The changes can as well be attributed to such unforeseen disturbances as terrorist activities. Demographic dynamics, for instance increase in the number of African Americans, are as well a contributing factor. The changes have been formalized by a number of constitutional amendments and federal mandate.
Bean, J. (2009). Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky
Delgado, R. (2003). Justice at War: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights during Times of Crisis. New York: New York University Press
Freie, J. F. (1998). Counterfeit Community: The Exploration of Our Longings for Connectedness. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc
Kersch, K. I. (2004). Constructing Civil Liberties: Discontinuities in the Development of American Constitutional Law. New York: Cambridge University Press
Pohlman, H. L. (2008). Constitutional Debate in Action: Civil Rights and Liberties (2nd Edition). Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc
Scheb, J & Stephens, H. (2004). American Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties. New York: Wadsworth Cengage Learning
Wells, J. W. & Cohen, B. D. (2004). American National Security and Civil Liberties in an Era of Terrorism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Walker, S. (2004). Civil Liberties in America. New York: Cambridge University Press
Walker, S. (1999). In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (2nd Edition). New York: Southern Illinois University Press