In a perfect world, racial bias and discrimination against minorities would not exist. We would all prefer to live in a color-blind society, but that is simply not reality. The fact is that race has always mattered in the society we live. Up until the middle century, African-Americans were locked out of the political process and rendered second-class citizens solely because of their skin color. Looking back at a critical time in US history, the end of the civil war, one can see the steps that had to be taken in order to get where we are today.
By reviewing and studying the ast, further steps can be taken in order to ensure mast mistakes will not be repeated. As reconstruction drew to a close more than 100 years ago, the several hundred African Americans elected to serve in Southern State Legislatures and in congress had dwindled to a handful. Although reversing this pattern of exclusion had taken much of the 21st century. Today, Congress has a critical mass of 40 black members who comprise the influential Congressional Black Caucus, and nearly 5, 000 African-Americans hold elective office across the south.
Most people believe this change is the direct result of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, robably the most effective civil rights law ever enacted. The Act immediately outlawed the worst Jim Crow laws, such as literacy tests and other devices that kept African Americans out of the voting booth. In the 19th century, during the early days of Reconstruction, Congress passed two Amendments to the constitution; the fourteenth, which granted African-Americans equal rights under the law, and the fifteenth, granting black men the right to vote.
During that era, 22 African-Americans were elected to Congress. The Act that has made such a huge and progressive hange in our society is stated as follows: A nationwide provision that prohibits the use of voting laws, practices or procedures that discriminate in either purpose or effect on the basis of race, color, or membership in a minority language group. All types of voting practices and procedures are covered by Section 2, including those relating to registration, voting, candidacy qualification, and types of election systems.
Sets forth the formula under which a political jurisdiction is “covered” by and, therefore, subject to the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 has various dates that trigger coverage, e. g. , if a jurisdiction used a “test or device” such as a literacy test as of November 1, 1964 and less than 50 percent of the age eligible citizens were registered or voted in 1964, it became a covered jurisdiction.
Section 4 further covers a jurisdiction if the jurisdiction provided English-Only voter registration/election materials, contained a registered voting age citizenry (or citizens actually voting) of less than 50 percent, and contained a single language minority group of greater than 5 percent of its citizens. Covered jurisdictions include the entire States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and counties and towns in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.
This section was designed to prevent states and other governmental entities with a history of voting discrimination from continuing to devise new ways to discriminate after the abolishment of prior discriminatory practices. Section 5 requires certain covered jurisdictions to submit any roposed voting changes in their election law or practices, prior to implementation, for federal approval by either the Attorney General of the United States or the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.
Covered jurisdictions must demonstrate that the proposed voting changes do not have the purpose or the effect of discriminating against protected racial or language minorities. This process is referred to as the preclearance process. Minority Language Groups: The minority language groups covered by the Voting Rights Act are Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, and persons of Spanish heritage.
Minority Language Provisions: The Voting Rights Act was amended in 1975 and 1992 to include political jurisdictions with language minority groups and requires such jurisdictions to furnish bi-lingual assistance to language minority citizens at all stages of the voting process and in all elections. Some of the biggest and influential cases that have molded the United States into what it is today and has continued to be remembered and make progressive changes in the new millennium.
On June 7, 1892, a 30-year-old colored shoemaker named Homer Plessy was jailed for itting in the “White” car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy was only one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, but under Louisiana law, he was considered black and therefore required to sit in the “Colored” car. Plessy went to court and argued, in Holmer Adloph Plessy vs. State of Louisiana that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The judge at the trial was John Howard Ferguson, a lawyer from Massachusetts who had previously declared the Separate Car Act “unconstitutional on trains that traveled through several states” . In Plessy’s case, however, he decided that the state could choose to regulate railroad companies that operated only within Louisiana. He found Plessy guilty of refusing to leave the white car . Plessy appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld Ferguson’s decision. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy’s case and found him guilty once again.
Speaking for a seven-person majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: “That [the Separate Car Act] does not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery…is too clear for argument…A statute which implies merely a legal istinction between the white and colored races — a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color — has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races…The object of the [Fourteenth A]mendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms nsatisfactory to either. ” Justice John Harlan, showed incredible foresight when he wrote “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.
In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law…In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the …The present decision, it may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief hat it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficent purposes which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent amendments of the Constitution. ” Over time, the words of Justice Harlan rang true.
The Plessy decision set the precedent that “separate” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were “equal. ” The “separate but equal” doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. That is until the Brown vs. Board of ducation case.. In the early 1950’s, racial segregation in public schools was the norm across America. Although all the schools in a given district were supposed to be equal, most black schools were far inferior to their white counterparts.
In Topeka, Kansas, a black third-grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school, even though a white elementary school was only seven blocks away. Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, but the principal of the school refused. Brown went to McKinley Burnett, the head of Topeka’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and asked for help. The NAACP was eager to assist the Browns, as it had long wanted to challenge segregation in public schools. With Brown’s complaint, it had “the right plaintiff at the right time. ” Other black parents joined Brown, and, in 1951, the NAACP requested an injunction that would forbid the segregation of Topeka’s public schools.
The U. S. District Court for the District of Kansas heard Brown’s case from June 25-26, 1951. At the trial, the NAACP argued that segregated schools sent the message to black children that they were inferior to whites; therefore, the schools were inherently unequal. One of the expert witnesses, Dr. Hugh W. Speer, testified that: “…if the colored children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represent 90 percent of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child’s curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation. ”