It’s been 50 years and one day since the passing of the Civil Rights Act, so this Thursday, let’s throwback all the way to 1964. On July 2 of that year, the United States passed this landmark civil rights legislation that served to help ban discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. Nowadays, students in history classrooms across the country learn about how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped end segregation and much of the Jim Crow Laws for African Americans. But what they don’t learn is that, thankfully, this Act also served as a great stepping stone toward social equality for Asian Americans.
Back in the late nineteenth century, Chinese Americans in the West, and particularly California, had to deal with an onslaught of racist attacks not only at school and work, but in their own homes as well. This sort of discrimination extended beyond the Chinese and also affected Japanese and Filipino immigrants (remember the internment camps during World War II?). After 9/11, South Asian Americans, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans were all lumped together as “public enemy number one.”
You can’t deny that things have gotten a lot better since those days, but you also can’t deny that the situation isn’t great. There may not be as many outward attacks on Asian Americans, but discrimination has managed to rear its ugly head in sneakier ways. For example, even though nationally, Asian Americans have great educational achievements, they hold lower per capita income and fewer leadership positions than Caucasians with the same educational background. Despite all the progress, stereotypes and racism rage on. Apparently, Asian Americans are seen as “hard workers,” but not leadership material.
Well, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but unfortunately, it seems that legislation alone cannot end discrimination. It’ll take a change in perspective and attitude from most, if not all, Americans for social equality to truly exist. Hopefully, progress won’t need another 50 years. Now the question is, where do you stand?