Civil Rights or Human Rights?

Within The New Jim Crow written by Michelle Alexander, she talks a variety of times about how civil rights are trying to break through but there are so many obstacles still in place to prevent these civil rights from becoming equality for all. In particular, in chapter 5 of the book, she talks about how civil rights may be a thing of the past and the new focus needs to be more on human rights as a whole. It is interesting that she brings this point up because everyone always thinks that the whites have always had the privileges that the blacks did not have, however there is the lower class of whites that ever since civil rights movements began back in the 1950’s with Brown v. Board they have been left behind and placed in the same category as the blacks. Many of these poor whites ended up having to live in the same places as the blacks and work the same hard work low wage jobs as the blacks. Everyone neglected to mention this group of people when discussing civil rights for years. That is why when Alexander mentions that this new civil rights needs to be turned into human rights it seems to make that much more sense. Blacks are not fighting for themselves, they are fighting for all of those people who are living in poverty and working difficult jobs with minimum wage. This does include poor whites, but to the blacks it should not matter as long as everyone is becoming equal. I personally believe that if the words human rights were used more frequently when discussing these racial tensions and civil rights then there could be a greater amount of progress. This may be a naive approach, but just taking the words civil rights out of the discussion and using human rights may gain more sympathy from those whites who do not want to give in to blacks, but do not want to seem as though they are against human rights. If a person goes against human rights then they are self seeking and do not care about the rest of our nation and will be looked upon as someone who should not hold power in our country. Thus, no one would want to disagree with human rights and just maybe this is the new way that the vocabulary needs to be changed in order to progress and gain equality for all.


4 thoughts on “Civil Rights or Human Rights?

  1. I think the purpose of using the word civil rather than human rights is to emphasize the fact that the Black Population is the primary group that has consistently been disenfranchised by the system that delegates privileges to White citizens. In saying this however, I do not mean to imply that I disagree with Alexander or the author of this post, both of whom advocate changing the language of “new civil rights” from civil to human. In fact I agree with both the content of this blog post as well as Alexander in that such a change would mandate an all-together more unitary and consolidated effort from all racial groups alike. This goes to show that the movement serves to represent and fight for all of whom are subject to poverty and jobs that are long hours-low pay.


  2. I can understand where you are coming from on the idea of what civil means in terms of the black population, however what about the other minorities that are outside of the system and are not allowed the same rights that blacks are? Latinos and Asians are the other two large groups that we could say are still not to the same level in the caste system as the whites. This is why I really feel as though it is more about humans than it is about civil rights. It also strikes me that there is just the simple fact that while race is in play people of the same race wish to eliminate individuals and entire classes from their thoughts just to make themselves as a race look better, stronger and more powerful. The word civil is past its prime in my opinion and if people want to keep fighting for civil rights I think that before they go about throwing that word around they really need to sit down and think about what they are truly fighting for to understand and realize what could be a better way of phrasing what they wish to accomplish.


  3. I know where you are coming from when you argue in favor of human rather than civil rights. You make a good point when you state that there are minorities that do not enjoy the same privileges that Black have and explain that poverty and disenfrachisment is not limited to one racial group but several in America. But I can’t help but feel that the connotation of using the term ‘human’ (opposed to civil) fails to recognize the extent and length of time endured by the Black community specifically. It is my understanding that the things they had to endure were terrible, and failing to specify their community’s struggle glosses over the history of hardship. In doing so, the ‘color-blind stigma’ endures where people forget about the discrimination that other racial groups had to endure.


  4. The idea of the “color-blind stigma” is something that I had not thought about before and makes perfect logical sense in the manner of keeping with civil over human. However, we have to remember that this is a society that already believes that we are color blind and that there is equality for all at this point in time. As we have discussed within this class this semester people honestly do believe that there is little to none racial barriers in our society today. This in fact as we know is not the case and the fact is that people are still not as educated as we would like them to be about race and law. For this I still think that there is a reasoning behind changing the word civil to human because it will help eliminate all of those previous problems like you had mentioned about the long periods of time that blacks had to endure as slaves in this country. We are in a time now where those historical references are still important but cannot help alter the societies outlook on minorities by talking about history. What is needed to be done is to discuss the present and recent past. When people are exposed to such incidents that only recently occurred such as the deaths of Gray, Matin and Brown, then people will understand that there is a need for civil/human change. If civil rights haven’t been able to alter the nations thoughts in several decades then why don’t we try to change something up by just trying to promote the word human. Who knows maybe it will catch on and become the new norm, and if not we will be stuck where we are now.


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