The Civil Rights of Other Minorities: Issues & Actions Taken

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  • 0:03 The Civil Rights of Minorities
  • 1:23 Minority Groups
  • 3:53 Civil Rights of…
  • 5:21 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson, we will review the timeline of several smaller minority groups. We will take a closer look at the background of basic human civil rights, how the groups are fighting for their rights and what they mean to society today.

The Civil Rights of Minorities

Civil rights are considered the basic rights that all citizens of a society have. Not all individuals in the United States have always had their basic civil rights protected. Minorities, for example, have long struggled for civil rights. The rights of minorities are typically divided into two groups: the rights of the individual minority and the collective rights of a particular minority group.

Many of the rights of minorities are set out in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states, in part, 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights... Everyone is entitled to rights...without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status... All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination... and against any incitement to... discrimination... Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work...'

Minority Groups

Did you know that African Americans and women are not the only groups of minorities who have combated discrimination in the U.S. throughout history? In the early years of our country, some religious groups, such as Catholics and Jewish people, were denied the right to vote. Also, some cultures were not able to obtain housing and employment - including the Irish!

Minority rights are an important part of human rights laws across the world. The goal of these laws is to protect individuals who are usually at a disadvantage because of their minority, or less-frequent or popular, position in society. Usually, the issues that affect minorities concern discrimination. Human rights laws protect these individuals from discrimination and participation in careers and political life.

Many steps have been taken in the United States to ensure that different minority groups are given the same protection under the laws as everyone else. For example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is popularly understood to have ensured African Americans the right to vote without stumbling blocks, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, which were measures that had been put into place after African Americans were granted the right to vote in order to still prevent them from having the means to vote. This Act had an impact on other minorities as well! Hispanics, a separate minority group, benefited directly from the Voting Rights Act after an amendment in 1975. This amendment required that election materials be available in other minority languages, including Spanish. Additionally, at this time immigration reform began to be a hot topic. Debates included such topics as what rights should be extended to individuals who came into our country illegally.

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