Reforms have been a fundamental part of any society throughout its existence. They are instituted with the aim to solve social or other forms of problems facing the society at the particular point or in the long term. The overall successes and failures of several reforms (New Deal, Civil Rights and Environmentalism) which were instituted in the world during different times, are assessed in this paper. The paper is therefore organized into three main sections, namely, Civil Rights in America, the New Deal legislations and Environmentalism Movement. Each section offers in-depth analysis of the reforms, while the conclusion summarizes the most successful ones in terms of their intended purposes.
CIVIL RIGHTS IN AMERICA
Desegregation in Public Schools. In the year 1954, the U.S Supreme Court made a ruling which would impact change on the American society. The court overturned the ruling instituted in 1896 on the racial segregation of individuals in public facilities. After this ruling, the various states could not choose to apply the segregation rule in public schools due to its effect on the psychological well-being of black children. The then Chief Justice, Earl Warren, stated that the psychological effects which would be experienced by the black children would cause them to think of them as inferior in the society, affecting their thinking in manners which could not be easily reversed. The Court ordered in 1955 that desegregation should be done with immediate effect. Such changes impacted some sense in helping parents try to raise their children without prejudice and bigotry. No child had to grow to face the need to explain the color of his/her skin (Sitkoff et al. 2009).
Nation Segregation: Transiting Towards a Two-Society Country. The famous 1964 Kerner report provided some insight into yet another civil right problem facing the U.S at the time. The commission discovered that the American society was segregating and moving towards two unequal societies (one white and the other black). The findings further offered remedies by showing that if the conditions were not tackled, the country might face a similar situation to South Africa where apartheid occurred. The “white society” was indicted for neglecting and isolating their African American counterparts. Legislations were recommended aimed at promoting racial integration and slums enrichment mainly through jobs creation, training forums, and even offering decent housing facilities.
One month later, President Johnson Lyndon rejected the committee recommendation sparkling rioting in more than a hundred cities after Martin Luther King J. was assassinated. In the following weeks during the riots, the same commission analyzed the riot patterns presenting reasons for the disturbances. 30 years after the reports were issued, one member of the commission, Fred R. Harris, took part in authoring the report which indicated that the racial divide grew exponentially with unemployment in cities at a calamity level. Other voices opposed the predictions of this commission sighting the growth in numbers of African Americans occupying suburbs.
The above problems happened due to various reasons which can be seen especially in the summer of 1967. The factors are multifaceted and interacting, varying from one town to another and year to another. Despite these factors, the basic cause is very clear with racial behavior and attitude towards black Americans by the white Americans being fundamental. Another reason which caused the problem is segregation and discrimination in education, employment and housing which hindered a huge number of black Americans to enjoy the benefits of progress in the American economy. The other causes include frustrated hopes, black ghettos and frustrations by the blacks on feeling powerless (Yamamoto et al. 1997).
African American Women: Lowest of the Economic Grouping. In the events of World War II, several states in the U.S passed legislations to fight salary inequalities experienced by the female work force. Unions retaliated by lawsuits based on adopted measures and standards aimed at ensuring that female employees are able to receive equal amount of salaries as compared to men indulged in the same line of work. In the year 1963, the Equal Pay Act, which was the very first legislation by the federal government acknowledging the need for equal pay for the same work done, established prohibitions for companies engaging in trade between states on employing only male workforce for jobs paying relatively high.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contained Chapter VII which stated the need to eradicate discrimination based on sex in workplaces. Despite the two provisions, African American women at the time remained at the rock bottom of the economic classification as they faced double victimization based on their race and sex. Dr. Murray, who was a professor of American study in social change and law, highlighted concerns of the society still holding on to the aspect of a patriarchal white American community. He further advocated for all antidiscrimination regulations and laws to clearly prohibit discrimination based on sex (Graham et al. 1990).
THE NEW DEAL LEGISLATIONS
According to Fusfeld et al., the term New Deal is used to refer to a group of reforms which were adopted during the Great Depression in America. Although they are usually seen as a single package of reforms, most just appeared along the way during the five-hundred-day period of implementation. The key elements of the New Deal include reforms, recovery and relief which highlighted the government’s role in community and politics. Relief came in various forms such as the Federal Emergency Relief Administration’s relief assistance. Recovery was done by organizations such as the Civilian Corps and Public Works Administration which engaged hundreds of people in works to build the country’s infrastructure geared towards long-term repossession. Reforms during the time were meant to impact the financial and banking industry curbing poor lending, trading and extensive corruption.
Emergency Banking Act. This bill was passed during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt in reply to the adverse conditions in the financial sector during the Great Depression. The act called for the banks to instate a four-day shutdown to facilitate inspection before resumption of service. This move was aimed at increasing investors’ confidence in the American banking sector. Financial stability was also achieved through these reforms (Cole et al. 2004).
Economy Act. Instituted during the first hundred days of the Great Depression, it was aimed at cutting 400 million dollars of payment from the government to war veterans and also an additional 100 million dollars from government employees’ payroll. This measure highlights the monetary conservation by President Roosevelt and his aversion to spending in shortages.
Agricultural Act. Following the fall in purchasing power of American farmer by the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt agreed with the Congress to institute legislations aimed at improving the purchasing power of American farmers to levels experienced prior to World War I. The money intended to pay farmers to cut production by around 30% was acquired by taxation on companies processing food products for sale. The move leveled the demand and supply for farm products enabling the farmers to enjoy decent purchasing power. The act narrowed down to the control of basic farm produce like wheat, corn and cotton by offering incentives to farmers so that they do not plant the crops (Cole et al. 2004).
In Guha et al., the origins of Environmentalism can be traced back to the 1800s through works of Walden and John Muir, but the movement gained ground in the 1900-1950s. The growth was sparked by the extinction of passenger pigeons in a period of 50 years through hunting. Other decimated species such as the American buffalo further propelled the ideas of conservationists. Although the movement existed for over 100 years, it was in 1960 that it was galvanized into a force organized and tasked with environmental protection through advocacy. The landmark achievement came in the form of the birth of Environmental Movement in writing of Rachel Carson 1962 in her book Silent Spring.
In 1971 both Greenpeace and Friend of the Earth were born introducing flagship campaigns aimed at protection of endangered species like the Panda and Tiger. They raised the issue of ivory trade to the world highlighting the problem it poses on wildlife. In the following year, the Earth Summits were established which would become a ten yearly convention of international environmentalist. The first one took place in Stockholm, Sweden. The summit terminated by exposing a rift existing between the developed and the developing world. The rift was on the supposedly exploitation of resources from the Third World countries by the First World countries which caused environmental degradation.
The summit held in Rio, Brazil in 1992 raised another concern on the warming planet. The summit was able to showcase how environmental degradation was connected to social injustices and economy issues. World leaders present came to an agreement to channel efforts to fight global warming, protection of biodiversity and bringing to an end usage of dangerous chemicals. Global warming took the forefront in Rio as it highlighted how the planet is heating up as a result of burning of fossil fuels. Countries involved in production of oil like Saudi Arabia feared the commitments would hurt their economies, thus putting their short-term interest first. Other joining Saudi Arabia included the U.S.A which failed to commit to the deal on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. By the time the 2002 Earth summit was held the move had gained international interest as world leaders and media flocked to Johannesburg to cover the events. The United Nations identified five critical areas which needed attention. With previous summits being dominated by the developed countries, in South Africa, developing countries had the chance to air their concerns. The five critical areas to be addressed included water and sanitation, agriculture, health, energy, and biodiversity (Sandler et al. 2007).
As seen in the paper, civil rights had major challenges or shortcomings in addressing the issues of racial and sex discrimination experienced by the African American population. Civil rights lacked the acknowledgement of the need for equality among women through equal wages. They also failed to address the rift in society between the white and black Americans. It took a long time for the Environmental Movement to become fully acknowledged by the world community. Major setbacks were faced during the Rio summit as some top economic powerhouses were reluctant to commit to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. In the following years leading to the Johannesburg summit the movement gained immense attention and support of international bodies that joined hands to combat environmental degradation. The New Deal group of reforms which were instituted during the Great Depression in the U.S was the most successful compared to the Civil Rights and Environmentalism Movement. They were able to instigate measures which helped America maneuver through a turf economic period under the stewardship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Cole, Harold L., and Lee E. Ohanian. “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great
Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis.” Journal of Political Economy 112.4 (2004): 779-816.
Fusfeld, Daniel Roland. The Economic Thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt: and the Origins of the
New Deal. No. 586. Columbia University Press, 1956.
Guha, Ramachandra. Environmentalism: a Global History. Penguin UK, 2014
Graham, Hugh Davis. The Civil Rights Era: Origins and Development of National Policy, 1960-
1972. Oxford University Press, USA, 1990.
Sandler, Ronald D., and Phaedra C. Pezzullo. Environmental Justice and Environmentalism: The
Social Justice Challenge to the Environmental Movement. MIT press, 2007.
Sitkoff, Harvard. A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue:
The Depression Decade. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009.
Yamamoto, Eric K. “Critical Race Praxis: Race Theory and Political Lawyering P in Post-
Civil Rights America.” Michigan Law Review (1997): 821-900.
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