equality and the law

Equality in America has been fought for decades until now, equality in race is still undecided. The meaning of equality itself has not yet been clearly defined by the courts. Perhaps the best event that can manifest inequality in America is the Civil War. Black slavery is one of the causes for the war and many fought for the slaves to be freed. Even before the Civil War, African-Americans from the South also tried to even out the workforce and fight for their rights by creating unions. As the south was becoming more modern, they used more slaves in the persons of African-Americans.

In Korstad’s Civil Rights Unionism, we see one of the South’s first truly modern businesses, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. By 1940 the company operated the largest tobacco manufacturing facility in the world, and its approximately 12,000 employees (plus the several thousand seasonal workers in the city’s independent leaf houses) represented one of the largest concentrations of industrial workers in the region. Two-thirds of the workers were African American, and over one-half of them were women. When the North won the Civil War, the slaves saw a promising future.

Many laws and amendments were developed as to how the slaves or the African-Americans will be treated whether they will be naturalized or not and what rights will they get. Reconstruction as I understood in Amar’s Bill of Rights, began early in the war and ended in 1877, involved a complex and rapidly changing series of federal and state policies. The long-term result came in the three “Civil War” amendments to the Constitution (the XIII, which abolished slavery, the XIV, which extended federal legal protections to citizens regardless of race, and the XV, which abolished racial restrictions on voting).

Reconstruction ended in the different states at different times, the last three by the Compromise of 1877. Equality and the Law page 2 In White by Law of Ian Lopez Haney, it is said that the Congress in 1790 restricted naturalization to “white persons. ” Though the requirements for naturalization changed frequently thereafter, this racial prerequisite to citizenship endured for over a century and a half, remaining in force until 1952. From the earliest years of this country until just a generation ago, being a “white person” was a condition for acquiring citizenship.

The 14th Amendment on the other hand is the constitutional amendment that officially made the former slaves citizens of the U. S. after the Civil War. Another key provision prohibits states from denying any citizen “equal protection” of the law. It says that states cannot take someone’s life, liberty, or property without “due process” of law. This protection was vitally important to freed slaves. Initially, most Southern states refused to accept the 14th Amendment. Partly as a result, the U. S. Congress divided the South into military districts, and required the Southern states to adopt the 14th amendment in order to be readmitted as states. The 14th is considered one of the most important amendments because it indirectly forces states to abide by many of the principles listed in the federal Bill of Rights. The “equal protection” of the fourteenth amendment is being interpreted in several ways. It is said to have generated a similar expansion of civil rights and liberties in the latter part of the twentieth century.

So has the enactment of national legislation designed to combat discrimination in public schools, the workplace, and in many areas of private life. Some have called this a second American revolution, a revolution in rights for all, without regard to race, gender, or creed. The characterization is apt; there exists substantial equality under the law, and courts have become a major venue for the defense of every American’s freedoms. Equality and the Law page 3 Up until this moment, injustice can still be seen in the United States. Some Americans still treat African-Americans differently.

Even before when black people were submitted into slavery, the whites believe that the blacks are not equal to other races. It was nearly impossible for a black to live free in America, and it was even more difficult for a black to find a job. As time passed, however, many people began to change their views on race relations in America. After slavery was abolished, fewer and fewer people believed that they were supreme over the African-American race. Not only were blacks free, they were becoming accepted as people in our society. They were even becoming accepted in the workplace.

Many employers were no longer bothered by giving a job to an African-American. America seemed to finally be turning around for the better. After all, African-Americans only asked for equality, and they were getting closer and closer to that goal with each passing day. However, some people began to observe that the government is giving more than equality to other races. It seems that America is making up for the maltreatment they gave to the African-Americans from the time of slavery and while they were experiencing all the injustice.

Now, some people argue that black people are being given an advantage. They are now given more opportunities than the whites. It is easier for them to enter the workplace, the court system, and the entertainment industry. Take for instance R&B and rap music, it is now being dominated by the African-Americans. The problem now is that as some people believe this, they are thinking that it is now better to be black than it is to be white. At the moment there are still grey areas on how to really give equality to the black people.

A case that can depict this is the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U. S. 483 (1954). It is a Equality and the Law page 4 landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which explicitly outlawed racial segregation of public education facilities (legal establishment of separate government-run schools for blacks and whites), ruling so on the grounds that the doctrine of “separate but equal” public education could never truly provide black Americans with facilities of the same standards available to white Americans.

Bell, in his book Silent Covenants, acknowledges the difficulty in accepting his critical view of Brown’s pragmatism: “Brown has become a legal landmark, an American icon embraced as a symbol of the nation’s ability to condemn racial segregation and put the unhappy past behind us” (p. 130). In Chapter 3, Bell offers a provocative alternative decision to Brown, and argues that by upholding the Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision, the Court could have encouraged more realistic and beneficial educational results for black students. In this alternative opinion, he claims, “More important than striking down Plessy v. Ferguson is the need to reveal its hypocritical underpinnings by requiring its full endorsement for all children, white as well as black…Realistic rather than symbolic relief for segregated schools will require a specific, judicially monitored plan designed primarily to provide the educational equity long denied under the separate but equal rhetoric”. Before we go to the Affirmative Action that later on becomes a popular way to address discrimination and inequality, we site another minority group that is also experiencing inequaity and injustice. Discrimination against disabled people is also widespread in the society.

According to research, some fatal practices of discrimination towards the disabled include the following. Screening tests and abortion aim to detect disabling conditions in unborn babies. If the baby is Equality and the Law page 5 found to have a disability there is often great pressure on the mother to abort. Human embryos conceived in IVF, i. e. in a test tube, can be examined in the laboratory. If they are found to have a disabling condition they are thrown away. Newborn babies, particularly those with conditions such as Down’s syndrome and spina bifida, are sometimes sedated and starved to death.

Some people call this “allowing them to die” but it would undoubtedly be called murder if it were practised on an able-bodied baby. There is also growing pressure to legalize euthanasia. This is a threat to everyone but especially to disabled, ill and elderly people who are often regarded as “better off dead”. Denial of food and water to those in PVS. These letters stand for “Persistent Vegetative State”. It is an inappropriate term because no human being is a vegetable. Occasionally people emerge from PVS, sometimes after many years.

People in PVS are profoundly disabled and are vulnerable to being killed by having their food and water withdrawn. This is completely unethical, as vulnerable people have the same infinite value as any other human being. There are now reports that people with less profound disabilities are being subjected to this inhumane regime. This is equally unethical. Other discrimination against the disabled are seen in media such as making fun of disabilities such as having crutches or wheelchairs and some disabled persons are deprived of education and employment opportunities.

Facilities for the disabled are also absent still in many establishments that makes it impossible for disabled persons to gain access to several establishments and services. To answer these concerns, many acts and laws have been formulated to protect the welfare of the disabled community. The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination Equality and the Law page 6 based on a disability in employment, public accommodations, public services (including education), transportation, and telecommunication and requires reasonable accommodations be made to qualified individuals with disabilities.

Section 503, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires affirmative action be taken to employ and advance qualified individuals with disabilities and prohibits employment discrimination based on a disability in federally assisted programs. Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973—Prohibits discrimination based on a disability in programs or activities receiving federal funds including education. These are some of the more popular and applicable laws that many employees and agencies follow.

However, O’Brien, author of Crippled Justice argues that judges have interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) through the lens of an early-twentieth-century culture established by the rehabilitation profession. That culture sees individual psychological problems as the primary cause of disabled people’s exclusions and incapacities. O’Brien shows how that theory was incorporated into federal disability policy in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in the Social and Rehabilitation Services agency run by Mary E. Switzer.

O’Brien reveals how Switzer expanded her ideas to a vision of antipoverty policy, claiming the poor and long-term unemployed needed the same kind of psychological rehabilitation as the disabled. She also examined how the civil rights idea has been articulated, legislatively defined, and adjudicated. Here we see that for both the African-Americans and the disabled populace, there are laws that protect them but the enforcement and interpretation of these laws may even further cause greater discrimination against them. Such as the disabled being treated as being problematic and requires a holistic rehabilitation. Equality and the Law age 7 Furthermore, Affirmative Action also causes the same to happen. Affirmative action began as a corrective measure for governmental and social injustices against demographic groups that have been said to be subjected to discrimination in areas such as employment and education. The stated goal of affirmative action is to counteract past and present discrimination sufficiently that the power elite will reflect the demographics of society at large, at which point such a strategy will no longer be necessary. Some groups who are targeted for affirmative action are characterized by race, gender, ethnicity, or disability status.

In India, the focus has mostly been on undoing caste discrimination. In South Africa, the focus has been primarily race-based and, to a lesser extent, sex-based discrimination. When members of targeted groups are actively sought or preferred, the reason given is usually that this is necessary to compensate for advantages that other groups are said to have. In simple words, the minority are given more opportunities and advantages to make up for their said “disadvantage”. In the United States, affirmative action occurs in school admissions, job hiring, and government and corporate contracts.

Its intended beneficiaries are ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities and veterans. Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been contested on constitutional grounds. A recent ruling in Michigan against some forms of affirmative action has required some colleges to set new admissions criteria. Affirmative Action for the disabled that can be observed include employers giving employment slots particularly intended for the disabled, salary difference, more benefits, and support. In commercial areas, the disabled are given priority in lines, parking lots, transportation,

Equality and the Law page 8 and special treatment. This affirmative action is less controversial than the race-based affirmative action. Affirmative Action on black people impacted America’s workplace on a very large scale. Its basic idea was that with all else equal, a black man would get a job over a white man simply because he was black. There are some obvious and serious problems with this, namely the hypocrisy that is generated by the lawmakers. The idea brought to minds is that in order to make up for past injustices, we should turn the tables on today’s whites and do these injustices on them.

Many people even believe that it is proper to do this type of ‘an eye for an eye’ action. This cannot be proper, however, because racial equality will not exist in this country until we stop distinguishing black from white. People who believe that ‘Affirmative Action’ is good have lost sight of our nation’s goal. Another problem is that today’s court systems are supporting these laws. The courts, for whatever reason, are allowing these laws to be interpreted so African-Americans are indeed getting jobs because of their race. People believe however that no one deserves to get or lose a job because of their race.

Many believe that any court that rules only after considering the racial implications is not just, despite the trust many have placed in the judicial system. Justice is supposed to be blind. This is the reason why race-based affirmative action is more controversial. There is no definite difference between a black and a white person. But for the disability-based affirmative action, we clearly see that the disabled needs special treatment. The difference between a normal Equality and the Law page 9 healthy person and a disabled man is very evident.

In this case, we see clearly why they need to be given advantage over the normal person. Many believe that race-based affirmative action uses racism still. It is impossible to end racism with racist policy. Because affirmative action is race-based, it always keeps the issue of race in the forefront. This seems to anger people more than anything else. I believe that affirmative action does use reverse racism. Racism whether it brings out good things or bad, is still always a negative ideology. Black and white should never be differentiated. Equality must apply to all.

When black people are given advantage, the white people are being discriminated and their rights are stepped upon. Affirmative action also insults the minority. It seems to tell them that they really are unfortunate and that it is a pity that they are black that is why we are giving them an advantage, simply because their skin is black. For equality to be attained, the law should stop pointing at who is black or white. In my opinion, the affirmative action policy should be changed to socioeconomic affirmative action. This is similar to Bell’s point of view.

By using economic measures as to who can afford or not, we do not discriminate against any color or race. Students can be composed equally of both high-income and low-income children. It also answers to help the minorities because most of them are from the inner cities who do not have much opportunity because of financial constraints. Equality is definitely hard to achieve in this world with so many races and differences. The law is a great tool to attain equality only if lawmakers and enforcers set aside their own personal interests. The law must apply to all and definitely, justice must be blind and free from any bias.

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