In Zinn’s chapter, “Or Does it Explode?” he discusses the development of the Civil Rights movement in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The rise of the Communist Party played a role in the push of the movement into a larger, more emphasized demand for change. There were already hostile feelings towards the Communist Party which created the image of black communists as more dangerous and militant. I thought an interesting idea in the chapter was the reasons behind the government’s decisions to appoint a Committee on Civil Rights. There was the moral reason, the economic reason which was that discrimination was wasteful of talent, and the international reaon where the world was beginning to question and judge the United States’ democracy as fraud. The United States had become a large power in the international community and threats to this were seen as very concerning. A pattern that was seen throughout the movement was that the government passed laws in reaction to violence and revolts and in concern of their international image. There was little to be done about changing the deep-rooted issues of racism and poverty that was the true foundation of the Civil Rights Movement. There also seemed to be little to no push to change people’s deep-rooted opinions, views, and feelings towards inequality and civil rights. The government would make small changes, hoping they would draw more attention and create a bigger impact, without making fundamental changes to prevent an “explosive situation”.
Something that Zinn continuously pointed out was how the federal government stood by and did not intervene in defense of the black movement. I have noticed this described in many different accounts and experiences of people involved in the Civil Rights movement showing how the police and government often stood by or fought against the movement even when it was a peaceful resistance. The Freedom Rides are an example of this where people were beaten and buses were destroyed without any sort of intervention or prevention from the police or government officials. This is extremely disappointing and must have been very frustrating to the supporters of the movement where they felt unprotected and in danger of their own government. These feelings of dissatisfaction towards the government with the issue of civil rights and equality in the United States are still very present today and creates very antagonistic perceptions that make it difficult for real change to occur.