Segregation and Discrimination in the United States


Segregation and discrimination on the basis of race have been a problem in the United States even as early as the colonial period. The black Americans were discriminated and treated as slaves who had no opinion but whose freedom was determined by their slave owner. After the abolishment of slavery, discrimination continued with African Americans being denied their civil rights since private race discrimination was not considered racism. Equity of races has not been an easy process but Civil Rights Acts and protection of rights in the constitution have however seen to equity in job opportunities, education, political and economic ideas in the country. Racial segregation greatly influenced the increase in civil rights movements that were advocating for equality in the political, social and economic equity. Over the years, other races such as African Americans have been granted the opportunity to participate in political affairs such as receiving voting rights. Socially and economically, laws have been put in place that there is equity in workplaces. This breakthrough has however not come without a number of challenges and setbacks, even shocking decisions from the Supreme Court. This essay examines cases handled by Supreme Court and how they were viewed in relation to the 14th amendment and racial discrimination.


Plessey v. Ferguson and Cumming V. Richmond County Board of Education

Plessey brought to the Court a case of violation of his constitutional right covered by the 13th Amendment and 14th Amendment due to his skin color. The 13th Amendment protects US citizens from slavery and the 14th Amendment ensures that there is equity for every citizen despite their race. He claimed that he was discriminated of his race and was forced to sit in a carriage that was filled with soot and which would, in turn, separate them from the general population. This led to the Separate but Equal rule that ensured that no race is superior to the other and they are both given equal opportunities in schools. The court had the power to ensure segregation in the education system was reduced by granting black Americans the option to choose between white public schools and creating their own schools. This was with the aim of reducing the cases of poor treatment and discrimination of black children in school. Therefore creating an environment where students could feel free and equal and no race was superior to the other. In the case of Cumming V. Richmond County Board of Education, the court ruled against the parents complaints on the basis that the parents had the option to choose where to take their children to attend high school and were therefore obliged to pay taxes like the rest. This decision was based on the point that it was the decision of black parents not to take their children to white schools and therefore despite their decision they have to pay taxes just like the white parents.

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Motivation for the Decision

Complaints of segregation and discrimination of Black Americans in school because they are considered a less inferior race motivated the Supreme Court to rule on the Separate but Equal in education. This was aimed at ensuring that all races were granted equal opportunities in education which will ensure that they are not discriminated on the basis of their race. Prior to Roberts V. Boston case, the courts decision also had a great influence in the decision of the Supreme Court since the Boston case had concluded that there isn't any greater and superior race to the other but with the need of minimizing discrimination in schools, then the African American would get their own schools and would be able to choose which school they would prefer to attend. This was done to ensure that the 14th amendment was upheld and there was equality in schools. However, to some like Robert this decision violated their children rights and only contributed to the creation of boundaries between races. The Supreme Court, therefore, showed its power, by encouraging separates schools for all races so that every race gets education opportunity without being discriminated.

Brown v. The Board of Education

Before the revision in its decision, the Supreme Courts decision was based on the de jure Segregation Act that allowed children be segregated through schools and attends different schools. The court overturned its ruling because the Separate but the Equal rule that it used to base its decision was against Brown's constitutional right and violation of the 14th amendment. The change of view of people against discrimination of the black Americans might have greatly influenced the new ruling. The ruling is also revised on the basis that the court was ignorant of the emotional and psychological abuse that the black Americans suffered due to segregation. Using the evidence of emotional scars, the Supreme Court changed its decision in order to ensure that there was no more separation of schools based on race but instead all children got the chance of equity in education despite the color of their skin.

Influencing Factors to the Decision

The decision was greatly influenced by the political environment at the time. America was at war with the Soviet Union at the time and therefore ruling on the basis of racial segregation would be viewed as a country that oppressed its citizens rights and did not uphold its constitution. Therefore to avoid many questions from the international community of how the United States treated the black Americans, the court had to change its decision.

The decision made during the case of Plessey V. Ferguson also influenced the decision of the court as it did during Reynolds V. Topeka case that is in favor of segregation. Plessey V. Ferguson case court decision had come up with Separate but an Equal rule which did not uphold the 14th amendment since creating separate schools for the blacks and the whites did not create equity but instead contributed to discrimination. Despite the decision to have different schools for different races was with the aim of reducing discrimination in school, the result was not so since this only created a distinction between black and whites while black children had to walk so many miles to go to school. In the case of Roberts V. Boston, the sentiments of segregation of black children were echoed with Roberts arguing that the separate schools violated the equity rights of the black children.

The Supremes Court reversal decision was also influenced by the social expectation at the time. Many people were awaiting the courts decision with the aim of ensuring that it upheld the 14th amendment right to the constitution that protects the American citizens from discrimination by race or origin. This decision would greatly determine how the society would move forward and how civil rights act would be upheld by the court. Social expectation of this decision comes to light after the decision was made then the case became a point of reference for many black citizens who would use the case as a platform of Civil rights movement. This reversed decision is seen as a boost to achieving equality since segregation in schools was tackled and both blacks and whites got the same opportunities. To ensure that the 14th amendment was honored, the court ruled against segregation in public schools and ensures that there was equity in school admission and acceptance of students.

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In conclusion, to achieve equity there was a need for revision of the 14th amendment and ensure equity of all the races. Segregation in the education sector by encouraging separation of both black and white children was a violation of their constitutional right. To achieve equality in the United States then the Supreme Court should base its decisions in consideration of all the citizens and the consequence this decision will have in the society just as was the case in Plessy V. Ferguson and Brown V. Board.


Jan 18, 2021 in Law
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