American society underwent a massive transformation after the war in 1945. The post-war era was characterized by massive economic development and the creation of Suburb communities. The affluent society experienced increased government spending, and their purchasing power experienced exponential growth. This essay analyzes the changes that occurred in American society after the war and how racial discrimination jeopardized national unity and led to an increased poverty rate among African Americans.
Summary of the Post-War Period
After the Second World War, the United States of America emerged as a dominant superpower, and its deliberate effort to revive the economy changed the face of the nation. The increased government spending on manufacturing led to tremendous economic growth. As the economic reforms continued, the need for affordable housing led to the rise of suburbs in the USA. The economic boom motivated by government spending led to the desire for home ownership. “Levitt built the first Levittown, the prototypical suburban community, in 1946 in Long Island,” which later spread to other parts of the country (Locke and Wright 308). People built their houses on the outskirts of cities where more space was available at affordable costs. The increased suburban communities and home ownership made cars necessary to help people reach work on time. Consequently, the number of cars increased as many people had to devise means of transport to work. The affluent society thrived as education, technology, and military advancement helped the nation succeed in wealth creation.
Racial Discrimination and Poverty
Education and segregation are essential features of the affluent society which caused an unprecedented challenge in societal coexistence. In providing funds for education, the whites were given top priority while the African Americans were deprived of education. Consequently, racial segregation became intense in the affluent society, affecting how Americans interacted with one another. Segregation in the transport sector was evident as blacks were requested to give up their seats for their white counterparts lest they face imprisonment. “Sarah Keys publicly challenged segregated public transportation” in a quest to achieve equality in society (Locke and Wright 298). The black Americans united and conducted a peaceful political protest to implore the government to treat all Americans equally. “The success of the Montgomery boycott prompted King and other African American leaders to continue the fight” for the rights of the blacks in all spheres of the society (Locke and Wright 315). As some civil rights movements won in their quests to achieve equality, it encouraged the formation of other movements to advocate for the rights of minorities.
Although the affluent society witnessed an economic boom, racial discrimination negatively affected the unity and cohesion of the people. The banks, for example, applied the principle of redlining where they denied the blacks in the community access to loans. Subsequently, the blacks could not invest in the booming economy and hence suffered poverty. As the whites accessed loans to build homes and invest in businesses, “black communities in cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Atlanta” were redlined and could not access loans (Locke and Wright 318). Consequently, economic empowerment for the blacks declined and could not be achieved. As a result of racial discrimination, the blacks suffered lower-value rentals and lived in residential areas that were not desirable. The blacks suffered as they were disenfranchised and could not attain education levels. As a result of racial discrimination, black Americans were living in poverty (Harrington 66). Most of the job opportunities were set aside for whites. Slums started mushrooming and were inhabited by economically deprived blacks. Harlem is an example of a slum that resulted from racial discrimination.
Technological Advancement and Feminism
The technological advancements in the USA increased employment opportunities as more people demanded new products. The leisure industry grew as people in the middle class acquired work-life balance and had enough time to spend with families. Television was produced then, and middle-income neighborhoods had an opportunity to buy the product for news and entertainment (Pozen 3). The advancement in technology, however, gave an avenue for the social and civil rights movement to air their grievances through the media and it helped them flourish. Riots, peaceful demonstrations, and other revolts were aired live on TV which encouraged other blacks to stand up for their rights. It is, therefore, prudent to note that the advancement in technology helped the spread of civil rights movements.
In addition to the racial discrimination experienced in affluent communities, gender and cultural norms also changed. The women in the USA witnessed a change in their cultural norms as most of them were forced out of work by the men returning from war. However, after the men returned, they took women’s place in the factories, and women stayed at home. Consequently, feminism rose as women wanted equal rights (Pozen 4). The patriarchal norms were challenged as the women also formed feminist movements to help them get equal treatment in education, employment, and the distribution of resources in society.
The post-war era witnessed tremendous economic growth as the government paid attention to production and spending. The affluent society improved its quality of life through building and ownership of homes in the suburbs. However, poverty increased among black Americans due to the segregation witnessed in education and offering employment opportunities. Although there was improved economic activity and the GDP increased, the quality of life and equality lowered as people were segregated based on gender and race. The proper conclusion of the post-war era in society is that it encouraged racial and gender discrimination, leading to poverty and poor quality of life among the segregated population.
Harrington, Michael. The Other America: Poverty in the United States: A New Introduction. Macmillan, 1962.
Locke, Joseph L., and Ben Wright, eds. The American Yawp: A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook, vol. 1: 1877. Stanford University Press, 2019.
Pozen, David E. “Ginsberg’s Howl.” The Explicator 62.1 (2003): 54-57. [PDF document].