Video

Breaking Civil Rights Away from Human Rights

Carol Anderson investigates the relationship between social and civil rights and the failure in the United States to expand the term “civil rights” to include broader human rights.
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At a Glance

Video

Language

English — US

Subject

  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History
  • Social Studies
  • Culture & Identity
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights
  • Racism
  • Resistance

The reason why we have civil rights-- we had a civil rights movement and not a human rights movement in the United States, and there's a fundamental difference. Civil rights. What we know is the Bill of Rights. The right to free speech, the right to vote, the right to a fair trial. But human rights are much more encompassing. They take in civil rights as well as the right to education, the right to housing, the right to employment, the right to health care.

In that critical moment coming out of the Second World War, when human rights is in the air, when organizations and people who had been oppressed are really glomming on to the hope of freedom and the hope of dignity that comes with human rights. You, in fact, had rising up these Southern Democrats who were afraid that human rights was going to change their way of life.

And so the power of racism and because these Southern Democrats controlled Congress, the power of racism in terms of reshaping how the United States approached the issue of human rights was absolutely essential, in fact, in breaking civil rights away from these economic and social rights.

What we did in the United States was a little bit of sophistry, a little bit of almost like a shell game, where you put the pea under the cup and then you're like, which one is it? Which one is it? Which one is it? What we did there was we talk about human rights when what we mean is, actually, civil rights.

So Carter is the human rights president. But when he was the human rights president what he was really talking about were violations of political and civil rights. He wasn't talking about the right to clean drinking water. The right to a quality education. The right to housing and employment.

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