The fight to defend civil rights created many icons globally in the 20th century, like President Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr of the civil rights movement in the United States, and Mahatma Gandhi in India. A century later, the civil rights violations reported to the FBI each year are mostly to do with racial violence.
But what are civil rights violations? A consensus exists that there are inalienable human rights that are guaranteed to us naturally. Civil rights, on the other hand, are those rights guaranteed and protected by the law. The most common civil rights are:
- The freedom of speech, assembly, and religion
- The right to peacefully protest
- The right to a fair trial and due process
- Freedom from all forms of prejudice based on sexual preference, color, race, or creed
1. Use of Excessive Force, Cruel and Unusual Punishment
You may be familiar with the widespread story of police brutality against George Floyd that led to his death and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement this past spring. Sadly, this is just one of many stories of torture and cruel punishment from the police.
Cruel punishment has been reported in prison and, at times, even committed by judicial officers who give extremely harsh and arbitrary punishment for minor offenses. Any penalty should be equal to the crime committed; anything higher is an unusual punishment.
Torture is any intentional cause of mental or physical pain by or under the approval of government officers. Torture is prohibited at all times by law and should be reported whenever it happens. In the US, cruel punishments are against the eighth amendment of the US constitution.
2. Sexual Discrimination and Harassment
According to Pew Research, 42% of women in the US were subjected to sexual discrimination at work. Sexual discrimination involves giving less qualified candidates jobs or promotions and unequal pay for the same work type due to gender differences. All people must be treated equally at the workplace and integrated into all work aspects.
An often common but hidden form of sexual discrimination is sexual harassment. It is often so subtle and passive that the victims may not outrightly call it out as discrimination.
Some things that may seem benign, like sexual jokes, lewd comments, offensive images posted at work, or work-related platforms, should be reported. Any inappropriate touching or requests for sexual favors should be reported promptly as these are grounds for immediate dismissal and possible legal action.
3. Racial Violence
As noted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, racial violence is the most rampant violation of civil rights. Racial violence is one of the most dangerous forms of civil rights violations since it leads to injury, loss of property, and death.
This violation of civil rights takes forms such as physical assault, vandalizing property, verbal and written threat, and homicide based on race. The worst part is that there are organizations like the KKK that support and promote racial tensions.
4. Housing Discrimination
All citizens have a right to fair and decent housing and to live anywhere they choose. That has not stopped some landlords and employers from denying or driving tenants out for malicious reasons. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 criminalizes discrimination on housing based on sex, sexuality, race, and gender, among other qualifiers.
Most rights have limits. Landlords have a right to discriminate if the tenant cannot afford the housing unit. As a side note, organizations and individuals often hinder free speech. While it seems unfair for them to do so, it is technically not a civil rights violation unless the government commits it.
Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. It is upon the population to keep fighting for their rights. You should report any form of civil rights abuse so that no one else has to endure your pain again. Any violation of civil rights is not just an insult to one person but to society. Fight for your rights.