America and our Civil Rights

John - Heathsville, Virginia
Entered on May 11, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: equality
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I believe America is not a perfect country – it never has been and never will be. However, this does not mean it is a bad place. I believe that our country is always becoming a better place to live and equality is spreading. Throughout our history, progress has been made in spreading civil rights to all Americans.

Civil rights include any right or law that makes us politically, socially, or legally equal. There are many different civil rights, but there are two that stand out in importance. The right to vote and the guarantee of equal treatment are principle that America was built on. One of the main reasons the Patriots rebelled against England was because of our lack of representation, and today, voting is the biggest way people voice their opinions and have their say. Equal treatment is also important to America – in ‘The land of the free’, all people need to be viewed and treated the same. People should not be viewed as African-Americans or Whites, women or men, but as Americans and people. America will not be truly equal until society is blind to ethnicity, religion, gender, and social class.

When our country was founded, neither of these core values were evident in American society. Only white, landowning males could vote or hold office, and other segments of the population were viewed as inferior. This gradually changed as time went on. Andrew Jackson expanded the right to vote by allowing non-landowning whites to cast their opinion. Women’s rights movements began before the Civil War but had limited success. It took until the Civil War for major change to occur – the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Other reform movements fought for equality, until the next big breakthrough – in 1920, women were granted the right to vote. The African-American Civil Rights Movement was another sign of progress – blacks finally had the equality they should have had years ago. All of these events were steps in the right direction – equality and representation for all Americans. They all go to show that while America is and never was perfect, we as a people are striving for equality.

If we continue in this vein, I believe we will eventually achieve our goal – a society without eyes for a person’s outward appearance. Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” His belief is observable in America. The children of slaves gained the same rights of their former masters, women gained the same rights their husbands had, and immigrants gained the equality the Founding Fathers had. This trend will continue – at some point in time, hopefully soon rather than later, America will not see the exterior, we will see the interior, the important part, of people. This I believe.