The Influence of the Cold War on the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement had a commonality that had an impact on the cold war both directly and indirectly, as well as the other way around. Many African Americans did not have the same rights as their white American counterparts during the cold war, and there was outrage about the racism that the US government was subjecting its citizens to on a global scale (Lauren 567). As a result, the cold war served as a distraction from the government crackdown on the civil rights movements, while increasing pressure forced American stakeholders to support justice and fairness for the nation's various racial groups.  On the other hand, the McCarthyism syndrome was used by those in government to falsely attack those who favored civil rights movements, in the pretext of dealing with the perpetrators of communism in the country, which meant they were proxies of the Russian cold war in the US (Skrentny 238). The cold war had polarized both the US army and the government, likewise to the Soviet military and their allies alike. Even though the Americans and the Russians never faced out each other in the war directly, the battled grounds had been staged in proxy countries like Afghanistan, Korea, and Vietnam, where either government supported the opposing factions (Lauren 566). Whereas the Soviet Union was championing communism, which entailed state power and total control for the state, the Americans were in for capitalism, which encouraged and embraced liberty and freedoms for the citizenry of every country. Called after Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, the Republican U.S Senator, the hypothesis of McCarthyism took the US by storm, and people were being charged with treason for supporting communism in America (Arnesen 22). Therefore, the wind of McCarthyism blew across the corridors of civil rights movements, and those who were championing to change were blackmailed, and quickly judged for treason without trial. This instilled fear and anxiety among the civil rights movement activist, and hence in one way the cold war tension helped the US government to clamp down those on civil rights.

On the contrary, the civil rights movement was a social movement that dominated the US in the 1950s and 1960, and those who championed the same advocated for the end of racism, segregation, and discrimination against the black Americans (Skrentny 239). The world was aware of what was happening in the US, including the Soviet Union. Consequently, the American government was mocked globally for advocating for freedom and liberation, when its people back home (black Americans) had been denied a chance to be treated equally as other Americans. Eventually, the two forces, the cold war, and the civil rights movement worked directly for and against each other during that historical time.

Indeed, the cold war had raised tension between the US and the Soviet Union, and the mounting pressure compelled the American government to let go the efforts of confronting the civil rights movement back home, to appear more inclusive, robust, and a superpower in the eyes of the communists. The Soviet Union and the Americans had been in the high rivalry since the end of the Second World War, and both were treated as world powers. It appeared that the two opposing forces need to gain support from other third world countries. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union seemed to have more help, because it stressed on the element of the American government mistreating its citizens back home because of their race, while it was pretending to champion international liberty. The escalated tension between the US and the Soviet Union because of the civil rights movement compelled the US government to compromise and stop McCarthyism to gain support from the developing nations.

Typically, to maintain its status as a superpower, the US government had to amend the laws governing discrimination and segregation, and let go the statutes of diminishing and looking down upon African Americans perceived to be in civil rights movements. Apparently, in the global arena, the US was a lot of shame, and the American government was getting mocked by the world directly. The Soviet Union sailed high and towered above the US in the cold war because of the African American segregation and discrimination factor (Arnesen 16). American government was forced to accommodate the demands of the civil rights movement to recover the reputation lost, a weakness that had given the communists an advantage in the cold war. Consequently, the cold war was strategically used to shape the domestic issues back in the US, a move that would equally change the drift of the cold war. In fact, the American presidents who ruled the US during the cold war had to strike a careful balance between the civil rights movement and the international approach to the cold war. Over time, the civil rights movement factions and the individuals that were held suspicious of the spreading communism were let off the government hook (Arnesen 23). The resistance against change lost momentum, and soon the rights of the African Americans would be heard in America. Therefore, both the cold war and the civil rights movements in the 1950s and the 1960s were the forces that shaped each other, both domestically and on the international platform.

Works Cited

Arnesen, Eric. “Civil Rights and the Cold War at Home: Postwar Activism, Anticommunism, and the Decline of the Left.” American Communist History 11.1 (2012): 5–44. Web.

Lauren, Paul Gordon. “Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Review).” Human Rights Quarterly 2002: 566–568. Web.

Skrentny, John David. “The Effect of the Cold War on African-American Civil Rights: America and the World Audience, 1945–1968.” Theory and Society 27 (1998): 237–285. Web.

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