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New strategies needed for future victories

Melvin B. Miller | 4/16/2014, 11:31 a.m.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over the months there will be numerous ...
“Now that I see my paycheck I understand what it feels like to be discriminated against.” Photo by Dan Drew

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over the months there will be numerous celebrations of various aspects of this legislation that changed the course of American society. Yet even after 50 years many African Americans do not accept the notion that the civil rights war is essentially over and they have won.

The problem is that while the racial macro-aggressions have substantially diminished the so-called micro-aggressions persist. As a result, there is an unfortunate tendency to identify any effort of social reform as a civil rights action. That strategy has the effect of creating the impression that a racial issue is primarily involved.

The wiser course of action would be to avoid any racial implication when possible. A good example is the effort to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” The objective was to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to combat unfair and unequal pay for women. According to the U.S. Census, women earn on average only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The loss in pay was even greater for black women, who earned only 62 cents for each dollar earned by white men, and Hispanic women earned even less (54 cents). Nonetheless, the battle was fought on the basis of the gender difference without consideration of race. The effort did not succeed this time, but support of the legislation is structured for a future campaign without the digression of the race issue.