Good Critical Thinking On Law And African American Experience
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The path towards the abolishment of slavery was laden with a lot of obstacles and barriers. Slave abolitionists had to persevere a lot in their push for the emancipation of slaves especially in the American South. There are however, some crucial issues and events and court cases that played a significant role in the abolishment of slave and the eventual recognition of blacks as citizens.
One of the aspects that significantly contributed to the abolition of slavery was President’s Lincoln’s open support for the abolishment of slavery. In fact, the President was at the forefront of the slave abolishment movement. As member of the Republican, the President was adamant that slavery should not be allowed to expand to territories of the US that did not have slaves and though this, he hoped that slavery slowly by lowly become extinct (Johnson, Smith & Anderson, 2000).
The President also issued Emancipation Proclamation that essentially freed all the saves that were under rebellion during the American Civil War. This is seen as one of the most important declarations in the history of slavery as it essentially meant that 3 out of the four million slaves that were present in the United states at the time were essentially freed under the President’s Executive Order (Johnson et al., 2000).
One of the actions that however derailed the course for slavery abolishment and the recognition of blacks as citizens was the Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of slavery. An example is the Dread Scot case in 1857 where it was ruled that all blacks in the United States, whether black or white would never at any time become full citizens of the United States (Johnson et al., 2000).
Scott had gone to court to ask for his freedom after recently moving into Missouri which was at the time a slave state. The chief judge in this case was Roger B. Tarney, was a staunch supporter of slavery in the majority ruling of the Supreme Court that that he delivered, it was declared that by virtue of being black, the defendant Scott balk did not in the first place have the right to sue and did not also have any rights that the white man was bound or supposed to follow (Johnson et al., 2000) . This particular ruling enraged a lot of abolitionists and was seen as a step back in the continued fight against slavery and the fight for blacks to be officially recognized as citizens
The other key event or issue that was significant in the abolishment of slavery was the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1864 (Bell, 2008). This Amendment formally abolished both slavery as well as involuntary servitude. The only element of involuntary servitude that was allowed was the one instituted as a punishment for crime. The Act was officially proclaimed in 1865. The thirteenth Amendment was seen as a formal and solid stance against slavery as it essentially meant that every slave in the United States was free.
Blacks however did not still enjoy a lot of rights that many of their white counterparts enjoyed a series of civil rights acts that were passed between 1871 and 1875 played a significant role in the eventual recognition of balks as citizens. These civil rights gave blacks in the United States several rights and freedoms that include the right to be sued and to sue, the right to own or hold property, the right to give evidence in court cases among others (Bell, 2008).
The 1975 Civil Rights Act for example gave blacks equal treatment in public transportation accommodation and also ruled against exempting them from public citizen services such as jury service. However, blacks continued being oppressed and in fact, it was not until after the Civil Rights movements of 1950’s and 1960’s that Blacks for this first time enjoyed equal rights as those of their white counterparts (Johnson et al., 2000).
One of the key elements of the civil rights movements was the fight against segregation in schools. For a long time, segregation had been part of the United States Education system and had relatively remained unchallenged. However, blacks started to challenge this system when they realized that megaton resulted into low quality education for the black community. The white schools were stocked with high quality teachers and sufficient resources such as books while most of the black schools were dilapidated and the quality of education in these schools was seriously wanting (Moody, 2001).
The earliest court ruling in regard to school segregation can be traced all the way back to 1949 when the Supreme Court of the state made the ruling that segregated schools were essentially permissible as per the state’s constitution. Segregation continued to characterize the nation’s public statement throughout the 19th century even after the abolishment of slavery, the passage of the Thirteen and the Fourteenth Amendment and even the 1975 Civil Rights Acts that officially banned the segregation of people in accommodation centers the year 1883 saw the striking down of this particular act and segregation enforced by private businesses and individuals was ruled as constitutional (Brown V. Board: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S, n.d). The later 19th Century was characterized by the passage of several Jim Crow laws that not only allowed segregation schools but segregation in a host of other places as well.
One of the land mark cases in the history of school segregation was the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896. This Supreme Court ruling upheld the constitutionality or the legality of various Jim Crow laws that allowed racial segregation in the provision of public service and in public places (Brown V. Board: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S, n.d). Homer Plessy was the plaintiff who had challenged a Louisiana law that called for separate train cars for whites and blacks. The court ruling led to establishment of the “separate but equal” that would essentially become the constitutional basis for racial segregation.
However, the greatest event in the fight again school segregation is considered to be the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka (Moody, 2001). In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the state laws that allowed and in fact enforced the segregation of blacks and white in the public school system to be unconstitutional (Moody, 2001). This case therefore overturned the previous Plessey v Ferguson decision that had declared the segregation laws in states to be constitution.
The Brown v. Board Education decision as followed by similar other cases that would rule on the unconstitutionality of segregation. In fact, more than 200 cases related to school segregation were heard by judges between the years 1955 and 1960 (Moody, 2001). However, plan for immediate desegregation of schools were hammered by President Nixon’s retreat in this area of school desegregation because in 1969, the Justice Department under his presidency went to court asking for delay the immediate implementation of the requirements that had been made in the Brown cases (Moody, 2001). The Supreme Court however rejected this call.
Some regions were against segregation such as the Prince Edward County in Virginia which ultimately closed its schools and it was only after a Supreme Court ruling 1964 that the county was forced to reopen its public schools. Some of the other noticeable cases where decisions were made against desegregation include; Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, Norwood v. Harrison and the Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1 (Brown V. Board: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S, n.d).
In almost all these cases, strict scrutiny was applied to determine the constitutionality of various education aspects related to segregation.
The criminal justice system in the United States has often been accused of exhibiting bias and discrimination most of which is racially based. It said that there exist as systematic discrimination and prejudice in this system and that derails the fair application of justice to all society members.
This can be traced back to the days of slavery where the criminal justice system was for example very hash on blacks and generally the people of color. For example at this time, blacks did not have the rights to sue or even be witnesses in court case (Murphy, 1988). However, significant development and progress has been made in the course of the 20th Century and indeed well into the 21st Century.
The series of civil rights acts passed between 1871and 1875 removed some of the discrimination and prejudice in the criminal justice system and provided remedies for some of the civil rights violations that had been witnessed in the country since time immemorial.
One of key elements that is found in the se cats is the Section 1983 Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code. This particular section was part of the 1971 civil right acts and was meant to provide civil remedies to victims of abuse in the united State and whose constitutional rights were violated (Johnson et al., 2000). Such persons had the right to sue and receive damages from the parties who had denied them their civil rights. However, this Act had limited success in the earlier days as the individuals charged with enforcing it were themselves abusers and deprivers of civil rights and were therefore unwilling to enforce these rights.
In spite of the existence of a formal act though which people who believe that their civil rights have been violated can make claims, evidence shows that civil rests continued to be violated even in the corridors of justice. The civil right to be treated and judged fairly is hugely abused in the United States Criminal Justice System.
One of these aspects is felt in terms of imposed on people of color. Research indicates that blacks generally receive harsher punishments that their white counterparts (Milovanovic et al., 2000). For example, evidence suggest that for some crimes, there is a high likelihood of an African American man to be incarcerated for committing the crime while a white man who commits the same crime would probably be punished through other means such as probation (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013). This even applied to heinous crimes where the level of punishment is once again quite disproportionate. For example, it is shown that more black men receive the death penalty in place of life imprisonment for crimes such as murder while their white counterparts in most occasions get lie imprisonment sometime even with the option of parole (Neubauer & Fradella, 2013).
All these aspects point to a criminal justice system that is significantly biased and prejudiced. This bias and prejudice is exhibited through a process known as petit apartheid which is an informal and an almost hidden form of racial bias that infiltrates the deepest cores of the criminal justice field and that cannot sometimes even be detect by reviews and evaluations on this system (Milovanovic et al., 2000).
Johnson, C., Smith, P., & Anderson, E. (2000). Africans in America: America's journey through slavery. African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter, 7(1), 6.
Bell, D. A. (2008). Race, racism, and American law. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
Brown V. Board: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-25-spring-2004/feature/brown-v-board-timeline-school-integration-us
Moody, J. (2001). Race, school integration, and friendship segregation in america1. American Journal of Sociology, 107(3), 679-716.
Milovanovic, D., & Russell-Brown, K. (Eds.). (2001). Petit apartheid in the US criminal justice system: The dark figure of racism. Carolina Academic Press.
Murphy, C. E. (1988). Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System. NC Cent. LJ, 17, 171.
Neubauer, D., & Fradella, H. (2013). America's courts and the criminal justice system. Cengage Learning.
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