In 1970s, people were very active in participating to various movements that would help in achieving their long-time hopes and goals of seeing that changes in their situations would change. African Americans continued to struggle to end legalized racism despite several previous declarations of it being illegal in buses and schools. Women were struggling to put an end to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace that constantly put them in fear. Gays and lesbians were screaming out loud for them to be liberated and be given equal treatment in the society. Workers, on the other hand, fought hard to establish labor unions in order to thwart the kind of power that businesses were able to wield in order to influence the government to further press their advantage. However, despite the various struggles and unrelenting fight of the American people, issues of race, class, and gender continued to pervade, and in some instances escalate, after the 1970s.
Racial discrimination continues to be a valid issue that is felt and experienced by African Americans in the society today. Michelle Alexander (2010) in her book The New Jim Crow explains how the absence of most African American men in the society is a big issue that is recognized by many but remains unsolved as people continue to turn a blind eye to the issue. The real tragedy in the matter is that even prominent African Americans such as Barack Obama, Tyra Banks, and the black media skirt over the said issue despite its glaring reality. Black men, instead of being with their families and taking care of their children, are put to prison as a result of the mass incarceration system and the massive federal program called the War on Drugs. To date, more African American men are either in prison, on probation, or on parole due to drug crimes than those who were enslaved in 1850 (Alexander 180). Mass incarceration has sadly become a normal part of American life as more and more young black men are brought under the control of the criminal justice system. As a result, children grow up without their fathers which put them at a great disadvantage, resulting to poverty which has become inherent and concentrated in certain areas over the years. Residential segregation coupled with job discrimination, poor education, violence, and poor health care programs in cities such as Chicago all contribute to the predominant poverty in the ghettos (Bogira). These instances validate the idea that Americans today are as racially segregated as they were in the past.
The issue of poverty is not just concentrated among the African Americans. As business groups became aggressive and influential after realizing the importance of political power, business groups acquired immense control over the country’s economy (Pierson & Hacker 117). With the rise of public interest groups and policy activism in 1970s (Pierson & Hacker 117), businesses mobilized to ensure their survival and push their interests despite the changing political atmosphere. As a result, efforts to establish labor law reform bills that would look after the interests of the workers were crushed to the ground, effectively suppressing the working people and the middle class. Today, this shift in power is translated to workers not receiving overtime pay and increase in unemployment. Time-and-a half pay is only given to those who are earning $23,660 annually, or a mere 11% of the American salaried workers (Hanauer). As average salaries continued to drop since the early parts of 1970s and work hours for full time workers continued to increase, wealthy businessmen continue to amass wealth. Laws which have given unfair advantage to wealthy employers have created a great gap in the economic status of workers and middle class men like teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals, among others, and the company owners. Workers doing hard labor in big companies such as McDonald’s and Walmart earn far less than what they deserve and would mostly rely on public assistance in order to survive (Porter).
While workers continue to battle low wages and the lack of employment opportunities, women and transgender are faced with grimmer problems. Apart from battling sexual harassment in the work place, where women were mostly hired for their work skills, physical attractiveness, and in some instance sexual receptivity (Silverman 131), women also had to face and overcome constant threat of rape which was initially meant to deny them employment (Griffin 99). However, through higher education that more women have apparently achieved than men, sexual harassment and rape ceased to be a major problem among women. However, a new sense of inequality continues to loom. Women have been enjoying higher wages than men in the past three decades, but are still victims of inequality at home and in the community. Arlie Russell Hochschild explains that men’s economic opportunities continue to nosedive, the number of single mothers continues to increase (qtd. in Cohen). Single mothers working on minimum-wage jobs seldom receive child care and family leave that would help them perform better at work and at home. However, problems don’t only encompass single mothers but married women as well. At home, full-time working mothers are saddled with the task of doing housework as fathers would rarely help (Cohen). From years of living in fear of being victims of rape and sexual harassment, women continue to be at a great disadvantage because of their gender.
Despite years of struggle against issues of racism, poverty, and gender inequality, people still find themselves trapped and suffering from the same problems. Countless progress in the field of science and technology belies the fact that humans have failed to move forward from various issues of inequality that continue to remain strong and hamper real progress.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.
New York: The New Press, 2013. PDF file.
Bogira, Steve. “The most important issue no one’s talking about in the mayoral race.”
chicagoreader.com. 4 Feb. 2015. 12 May 2015.
Cohen, Patricia. “Among the Poor, Women Feel Inequality More deeply.” nytimes.com. 18 Aug.
2014. Web. 12 May 2015.
Griffin, Susan. “Rape is a Form of Mass Terrorism.” Ramparts. 10. 3 (1971): 99 – 100. PDF file.
Hacker, Jacob S. and Paul Pierson. Winner-Take-All Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster,
2011. PDF file.
Hanauer, Nick. “This is why the middle class can’t get ahead.” pbs.org. 1 December 2014. Web.
12 May 2015.
Porter, Eduardo. “Big mac Test Shows Job Market Is Not Working to Distribute Wealth.” .”
nytimes.com. 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 May 2015.
Silverman, Deirdre. “Sexual Harrassment Begins with Hiring Procedures.” Quest. 3. 3 (Winter
1976-1977): 131 – 134. PDF file.