Many individuals often confuse their civil rights with their basic human rights or civil liberties (i.e. rights protected under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights). But the fact is, your civil rights are much different than those and it is important for you to know exactly what they are and what to do if they are ever violated. The truth is, your civil rights are extremely powerful as they provide you with protection from being discriminated against.
It wasn’t until 1964 when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act that gave citizens the freedom from being discriminated against. To clarify, the CivilRights Act “prohibits discrimination in public facilities, employment, education, and voter registration based on race, color, gender, religion, and national origin” [Source: The U.S. Department of Justice]. Before this time, many individuals, particularly African Americans, weren’t receiving the same respect or treatment as were other races. Once the Civil Rights Act became active, it changed the way society functioned. It is important to recognize that the Civil Rights Act can be modified so that if an issue were to arise, one or more of the rights can be revised and others can be added to it.
In fact, just a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, Congress then passed the Voting Rights Act which gave “minorities equal access to the polls.” Three years later, the Civil Rights Act was expanded on and that is when the U.S. saw the birth of the Fair Housing Act. The purpose of the Fair Housing Act was to “protect against numerous sorts of housing discrimination, including rentals, sales, real estate transactions, and brokerage services” [Source: Cornell Law School]. The Act “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Congress also created housing discrimination protections for individuals with disabilities through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”
As you can see, you have many rights protected under the Civil Rights Act.
So, what exactly are my civil rights?
Now that you understand a little bit about the history behind the Civil Rights Act, let’s dig into what your rights are. According to Britannica, your civil rights are the “guarantee of equal social opportunities and equal protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other personal characteristics.” Some examples of your civil rights include:
- The right to seek employment.
- The right to vote.
- The right to government services.
- The right to public education.
- The right to use facilities.
- The right to be treated equally. This means an employer, police officer, educator, restaurant owner, etc. should not treat you differently than they would someone else just because of your skin color, race, gender, religion, etc.
Unfortunately, cases are continuously being brought to the attention of the court that stem from discrimination. A common case we often hear about involves police officers who use racial profiling to stop an innocent individual or make an arrest. Although police officers should never use racial profiling while performing their duties as it is considered to be a form of discrimination, many still do. Racial profiling is when an officer uses a person’s race, ethnicity, or national origin to initiate contact with a person rather than consider their behavior and the role they may have played in carrying out a crime.
If you are a victim of racial profiling or you believe a law enforcement officer discriminated against you, you are encouraged to contact a police brutality attorney in your area to find out how you can fil a lawsuit against the officer for violating your civil rights.
Your civil rights afford you the right to be treated equally and live a life free from discrimination. If you ever feel those rights have been violated by anyone, USAttorneys.com is here to help you get connected with an attorney in your city who can help you exercise your rights.