This July marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The landmark law, spearheaded by President John F. Kennedy and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, opened the doors of liberty and equality for millions of Americans since then. But paying tribute to this momentous occasion also requires us to think hard on the racial discrimination and intense inequality that many Americans still face, both on paper and on the ground.

We live in time of intense partisan deadlock following one of the worst global financial crises since the Great Depression. Unfortunately these difficult times fall disproportionately hard on minorities and members of the working poor, just as members of the uber-affluent “1 percent” club are seeing enormous returns to capital and favorable tax breaks.

These economic trends aren’t occurring in a vacuum — they’re political, and they’re part of a story that tells of the weakening of the very pillars of the Civil Rights Act: the voting booth, the workplace, and the classroom.