Looking forward and back as the Civil Rights Act turns 60

Published in The USA Today on

The law ended segregation, extended lives and improved public education. Its full promise remains unrealized, activists say.

It's been 60 years since the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law.

Across the country, civil rights groups, scholars and others have commemorated the landmark law with panels, comprehensive reports and rallies. Many have cited its impact and other federal laws that came in its wake, including one protecting the right to vote for all citizens and another banning discrimination in housing.


Every generation makes progress

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice

To commemorate the anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is an honor we do not take lightly at Asian Americans Advancing Justice. At the time the 1964 legislation was signed into law, it was groundbreaking in prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

In the early 1960s, Asian Americans were only 0.5% of the population. Our community benefited from the Black Civil Rights Movement successes of the 1950s and 60s. The solidarity shown by Black civil rights leaders for Asian Americans demonstrated the success of intersectional/collective activism in civil rights movements. Even as Asian Americans have grown to represent 7% of the population, the 1964 Civil Rights Act serves as a reminder of progress made and the distance we have yet to travel to achieve true equity.

Every generation makes progress toward the goal of true equity in this country, but none of us will realize the full impact of laws like the Civil Rights Act until and unless we work collectively with the Black community to stop the rollback of our rights and realize the dream of a fair and equitable society for all.