In Chicago during the 1960s, there was a well-established African American population – over three quarters of a million – who had successfully established themselves relatively well off financially compared to African American communities in other large cities.
While still only making half of what local whites would make, their per capita income was higher than Blacks in every other American city apart from Detroit. Of course, success is always relative. Racist institutions and habits both played their part in keeping the community from gaining true equality with their white neighbors.
In fact, ’white neighbors’ itself is a bit of a misnomer. Due to the racist practice of redlining the white and black populations of Chicago were largely segregated. If an African American family wanted to purchase a home, they found it almost impossible to obtain a traditional mortgage at reasonable interest rates.
The alternative they had to pursue was to buy a home on installment payments; similar to the way people would purchase a television or a refrigerator reviews of the terms of these arrangements indicate that they were very harsh.
Missing a payment would result in eviction – just as if they were mere tenants. Plus, the costs were onerous. Research paid that in Chicago black families paid 70 plus percent more for their housing than white families did, despite their much lower household income! With this type of financial disparity, clearly the prospect of purchasing luxuries such as refrigerators and televisions was dim.
In late 1968, many buyers in this situation banded together to form the Contract Buyers League. On December 1st of that year they organized a payment strike, where several hundred of these contract buyers stopped making their payments at the same time. As a result of this, many of the real estate agents involved renegotiated the terms of many of the contracts with fairer terms.
The cause of equal rights takes on many forms. There is a growing awareness of the need for civil rights and equal rights for the various minority races in the West. The same is true of women’s rights – now most Western countries have the right to equal pay for men and women enshrined in the law. These laws are not perfectly enforced but there is always redress by legal means. Those who have the courage and the resources can sue for justice in many parts of the western world.
In Asia the situation is more complicated. Strongly muslim socieities tend to regard the idea that women have equal rights with men as religiously incorrect. The Arab oil nations place strong legal distinctions between nationals and immigrant workers. The latter group treated as entirely unworthy of many the privelges nationals enjoy. Korea and Japan have tried to do more to bring equal rights to their citizens.
In Thailand the government official line is that there are equal rights for all. The situation is made complicated by the millions of illegal Laotion and Burmese workers in the country. Another group who often do not receive much public attention are the sea gypsies. They are also called the Moken. They are semi-nomadic people from Malaysia. The sea gypsies are found in the Gulf of Thailand, Krabi, Phang-Nga and Phuket. They were originally encouraged to settle in the Khao Lak area and other deserted islands to stop the British claiming land that was felt to belong to Thailand. Unfortunately, they were not given any rights to fish the seas in the area. Since the Surin Islands and the Similan Islands became popular diving spots commercial fishing has been banned in the area. This leaves the sea gypsies outside the law as they must fish in order to survive.
They find it hard to gain representation within the democracy of Thailand since they are an isolated group of people who shun modern society. They have their own language and religion and want equal rights. More than that they want to be left alone.