Political Movements: Their Origin and Importance in Society

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Wikipedia defines a political movement as “a collective attempt by a group of people to change government policy or social values,” and at face value, that makes perfect sense. But that isn’t just what political movements do. The most important part about them is that they implement change. When someone throws a rock into a pool of water, the rock doesn’t just sink, but it sends ripples outward; and political movements, or really any movement, is the same. History is full of examples of political movements that not only change government policies and challenge social norms, but also change art and culture, for better or for worse.

The most prominent example of this is the civil rights movement, which spanned across World War II to the 1960s with the goal of fighting segregation in all walks of life, from jobs to transportation to housing. The movement led to major victories, one being the Supreme Court ordering the desegregation of public schools in May of 1954 with its ruling on the case Brown v. Board of Education. That case then broke the floodgates for more public policy changes, culminating with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being passed. What started as a fight against Jim Crow laws in the South turned into something so much bigger. That is what everyone learns in school, and what is in a majority of textbooks on the Civil Rights Movement, but the effects of the social and political changes brought by it reach farther into daily life than just that. 

When someone tries to conjure up an image of fashion trends during the 1960s, afros are usually remembered as an integral part, a fashion trend that inevitably makes it into every 1960s halloween costume. However, afros didn’t start out as a fashion trend – it had actually been initiated as a political statement. Up until then, black people usually made their naturally kinky and curly hair conform to eurocentric beauty standards, which called for straight hair. Natural hair is still a hot topic today, with the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, better known as the CROWN Act aiming to make it illegal in all 50 states for an employer to discriminate against an employee with natural hair or in a protective hairstyle such as braids and dreadlocks. Regardless of how slowly these changes have taken place, they have taken place. Now, stores like Target have sections of hair products specifically for those with naturally curly or kinky hair, when just a decade ago, it was difficult to find products that suited these hair types. A person’s hair is a major part of their identity, and it is a visual representation of who they are as a person. 

History is complex, and the impacts of events that took place years, decades and even centuries before are hard to understand. However, they are infinitely easier to grasp in hindsight, especially when compared to trying to understand how current events affect daily life as they take place all around us. The aim of this column is to look at political movements new and old, and to see how they have affected daily lives in areas such as culture, fashion and beyond. It does not matter whether the movement in question affected culture for better or for worse, but it is important to zoom out and understand how the ripples caused by that movement impacted everything around us.