Oral de bac: The idea of progress

Mis à jour : juin 11

Progress can be defined as a movement to an improved or more developed state, or to a forward position. Today we will see to what extent disobedience can generate progress. To answer this question, we’ll focus on the history of the Black Rights in America, from the 20th century, until today. I will first introduce and explain the notion of segregation, then we will observe how the black community fought this racial discrimination and finally we will see what the situation is like today.

I. The notion of segregation

In 1865, nearly a century after the Independence of the United States of America, slavery was abolished. However, this feeling of black people being inferior remained in the mentalities and it generated racial acts against black people.

Over the course of 80 years, racial discrimination was regulated by the so-called Jim Crow laws, which mandated strict segregation of races. Black and white people lived separately and benefited from different rights. For example, black people couldn’t go to the same schools, use the same buses, sit next to one another white, and they had to sit on the back… White people were privileged in public places (in a restaurant, if a white customer was present, blacks were never served first). Even the kids were following these rules: black kids didn’t have access to libraries for example. Moreover, everyday blacks endured many other humiliations: white people didn’t call black people by their first names but used “boy” or “girl” or even “nigger”. In some states the unwritten rules could easily end up in insults, beatings or even lynching! Finally, another shocking example was the public bathrooms. Effectively, there were two different sinks in the public bathrooms. One was reserved for white people (it was modern and very clean), and the other was for the colored people (it was old, broken and dirty). Even if there was a huge queue for the colored sink, colored people couldn’t go to the “white people sink”. This process was called segregation.

II. The racial segregation

During segregation, a large part of the black population (and even white people) fought against segregation for their rights. For example, the freedom riders were a group of Civil rights activists in the eighteenth century who went a step further in the fight against segregation and decided to drive a bus in which Jim crow laws weren’t active. In the group, there were black people who tried to survive but also white people who were against racism and who wanted to protect the black people. Both the black and the white people sat side by side, purposely breaking the Jim Crow laws. As a result, the Ku Klux Klan, a gang which was pro segregation and against black liberty, was purchasing their buses to kill them (even the white people). It’s for this reason that within the bus, there was an unsettling quietness, a nervous silence due to the danger. This group has been influenced by Rosa parks, a black activist who, on the first of December 1955 in Montgomery, didn’t give up her seat for a white person and was consequently arrested. In response to her act, a young 26-year-old black minister, Martin Luther King, launched a campaign of protest and boycott against the company of buses which lasted 380 days. Martin Luther King was a black activist who fought for black rights for his entire life. It’s incredible that he didn’t fight with violence, but he wanted to create some kind of temple of peace (as we can see in his speech, I have a dream). Furthermore, he is really famous for his speech “I have a dream”, which inspired all black people to fight for their rights and to fight for a better life.

However, the fight against segregation wasn’t so easy because lots of white people considered black people as inferior and couldn’t stand the idea of an equality between white and blacks. 

1963: March to the Capitol

1963: Four black girls killed in a church by a bomb

1964: president Johnson signed a contract that defended the right of the blacks

1968: Martin Luther King was assassinated

1965: Bloody Sunday: Black activists were killed by policemen

III. The situation today (conclusion)

Today, the segregation is officially over. Effectively, black people have now the same rights than the whites and aren’t persecuted anymore. Colored populations can now live freely. A concrete example of this freedom is Barack Obama, the first black president in the history of the United states, who managed USA from 2009 to 2017 and is considered as one of the best presidents of USA of all time. But I think the total equality between white and colored people hasn’t been reached yet. Effectively, there are still acts of racial discrimination against colored people and furthermore, they have less chance to get a good job (impro).

The question is: has racial discrimination totally disappeared from the mentalities?

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