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History and Changes to Racial Equality in the 21st Century

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 2858 words Published: 5th Aug 2019

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During the era of reconstruction, segregation and Jim Crow laws gave little support of racial equality but influenced a white dominant society. There are constitutional laws and amendments that have done little in protecting the rights of Black American’s from social injustice. Current research confirms that there is Black oppression in the 21st century in the areas of institutional, political and social inequalities. Blacks are subjected to racial profiling, judicial injustice and social differences. The research will show there has been little change since the Jim Crow laws in the strong feelings of white dominance. This ideology of white dominance has perpetuated racial bias and violates the act of liberty.

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 Laws enacted to support racial equality in American society, has done quite the opposite. The written language of the Constitutional Amendments has motivated a society of racial divide. After the civil war, an era of reconstruction in America, created a moral and political debate concerning the citizenship rights of Black Americans, that descended from slavery. In 1863, without rights of citizenship, the Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed Black slaves as free. A year later the Thirteenth Amendment proposal to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude, except as criminal punishment would be written. Reconstructed Southern states were in opposition of laws that would change the way in which the states governed. Southern states reaction to equality would stagger racial equality:

Slavery had been tacitly enshrined in the original Constitution through provisions such as Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, commonly known as the Three Fifths Compromise, which detailed how each state’s total slave population would be  factored into its total population count for the purpose of apportioning seats in the United States House of Representatives and direct taxes among the states.1

In 1866 due to the unfair treatment of Blacks the Fourteenth Amendment was written to propose the rights of citizenship and equal rights of the law. Political pressure was applied to suppress the opposition from the south and two years later the amendment was ratified. Under the Fourteenth Amendment the language of the citizenship clause challenged the prior decision by the Supreme court which had ruled in the Dred Scott v. Stanford case, that Americans who descended from slavery could not be citizens.2  The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were greatly challenge by the state of Mississippi and Alabama in the 19th century, in which the states were opposed to Federal government interference into state affairs. The reconstruction of the south framed what is known as Jim Crow laws that proposed equality to blacks in the form of segregation. In 1896, a supreme court ruling on Plessy vs. Ferguson allowed for separate, but equal, public accommodations.3 The governments legalization of separation gave way for the Jim Crow laws in the south. The outcome of segregation lead to civil rights movement for the unfair and brutal treatment of blacks. The purpose of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment constitutional laws were to protect the rights of black, while instituting equal liberties under the law, but the provisions written did not extend to the southern states. The political seats held in congressional office and within the states would overrule the power of the law. Blacks participation in politics in the 19th century was very limited. Between 1880 and 1906, the Democratic party in fear of the black vote in highly populated black southern areas created a political movement to end the black vote in the south. Under the Fifteenth Amendment the rights of black voters were to be protected, but Southern legislatures wrote a proposal that appeared to be non-bias. In the proposal, a poll tax that would require citizens to pay a fee to vote, literacy test and the requirement that a prospective voter demonstrate to election officials an understanding of the constitution.The poll tax opened the door for six southern states to adopt a “grandfather clause” exempting from the new requirements descendants of persons eligible to vote before the Civil War (when only whites could cast ballots in the South).5 The disenfranchisement of blacks in the South would move to a new era of civil rights movement. In the 20th century, the Civil Rights movement would give a new meaning to the years of social injustice.  Through social advocacy by organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the government would be forced to act on the laws written, entering new bills that would further protect the civil rights of African American’s. The term African American would become the new identity in the call for change.  Many believe that Civil Rights did not take place until the 1900s but in fact had occurred in the 1800s, with the fight for social change came the Jim Crow laws of the south. Beginning in 1903 responding to Booker T. Washington ideology, that Blacks should resist civil and political rights, W.E.B. DuBois penned an essay to revitalize the advocacy of civil, political and educational rights. He says, “By every civilized and peaceful method we must strive for the rights which the world accords to men.”6   In 1909, W.E.B. DuBois helped form the NAACP, he would further dedicate his life in the fight for social justice and equality. In the history of resistance came massive violence from the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacist organizations in part to preserve the white race, while keeping the oppression of the minority race. In contrast to violence, James Farmer(CORE) and Martin Luther King (SCLC) would lead peaceful protest across the south. In 1942, the first sit-in protest occurred in Chicago which led way for the Montgomery boycott of 1954, in the prior year a Civil Rights precedent was made in the courts with Brown vs. Education, which led to the desegregation in schools. The Brown vs. Education encouraged the government to review the rights of African Americans. In addressing the issue of segregation, in 1957, the first Civil Right law since reconstruction, gave African Americans the right to vote. Any violations were subject to Federal prosecution.  Three years later, a peaceful boycott of Woolworths helped lead to desegregation in public places. In 1963, on the steps of the capitol, Martin Luther King would give his historical “I have a Dream” speech. Following his speech, the 1964 Civil Rights act, ensuring equal employment, limits on the use of literacy test and desegregation of public places were written. In 1965, at the hands of state police, peaceful protesters would endure extreme violence in a march to Selma, Alabama. Later that year, the 1965 Voting Rights Act would be signed into law. This would lead way in the elimination of the poll tax provision and an extension of. After the assassination of King in 1968, the Fair Housing Act would become law. This final act in the Civil Rights movement was to protect from discrimination based on race, sex, national original and religion. Over a hundred years of oppression and there is still a struggle for equality in the 21st century.

 Current studies show an alarming number of cases involving racial profiling. The nationally known case of Trayvon Martin, who was racially profiled for being in a white neighborhood while wearing a hoodie, by George Zimmerman a neighborhood security guard, sparked an insurgency for social justice in the 21st century. The death of Trayvon brings back the racial debate concerning the African American’s freedom. Shuford (1999) contended (as cited in Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 2016, 27) that racial profiling is in violation of various constitutional and statutory rights including the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.7 This type of racial bias and stereotype is prevalent in the treatment of African Americans within legal institutions. There is a growing number of incidents involving the profiling by police which has caused the African Community to use cautionary practices and initializing phrases such as “driving while black.” Racial profiling has led to many incidents involving police brutality including excessive force, that often end in death. Such as the case of Michael Brown, whose life ended after being approached by an officer for walking in the middle of the street. The Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are only a few that have been subjected to racial injustice in the 21st century. For example, ( as cited in Seabrook and Wyatt-Nichol 2016, 27) blacks are: approximately four times more likely to be targeted for police use of force than their white counterparts; arrested and convicted of drug-related criminal activities at higher rates than their overall representation in the U.S. population and are more likely to fear unlawful and harsh treatment by law enforcement officials (Goff and Kahn 2012; Tyler and Huo 2002; Walker, Spohn, and DeLone 2007; Weitzer and Tuch 2006).Following the death of Brown the Justice Department investigated the Ferguson, Missouri police department revealing a concern for the ratio of traffic stops involving African Americans vs. White Americans. From the number of African American deaths in recent years due to excessive force by police have generated a new movement from the organization Black Lives Matter, who is viewed as being a radical anti-white organization. Black Lives Matter protesters remind America that discrimination of race and stereotype attitudes still plague society. In 2013, Black Lives Matter (BLM) founders Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors, used social media to create an international platform to fight racial profiling, excessive force by officers and racial inequality in the criminal system. BLM’s platform is inclusive to anyone that has been oppressed by discrimination. Known for using the hashtag symbol on social media, other supporters would follow as a way of inspiring unity, while others such as All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter contrasted with the platform. In 2014, President Donald Trump pinned the slogan “Make America Great Again.” His proposed foreign policies and speeches filled with racial rhetoric have perpetuated many White nationalist to perceive his slogan as “Make White Great Again.” In 2017, Black Lives Matter counter-protested a “Unite the Right” rally demonstration organized by a white supremacist, Jason Keller at the University of Virginia campus. The First Amendment law allows for the freedom of speech, but Federal law forbids violence through hate. Four white supremacists charged with committing a Federal crime. In USA Today, (2018) issued a statement by the Federal prosecutor, this is a group that essentially submits to an anti-Semitic, racist ideology and then organizes, trains and deploys to various political rallies, not only to espouse their ideology but also to engage in acts of violence,” Cullen said. “This wasn’t the lawful exercise of First Amendment rights.9 The lack of accountability in the number of deaths by police throughout the U. S. has motivated celebrities into speaking out to the racial injustice in a system that does little to protect African Americans.  In 1966 the first hate crime 18 U.S.C. 241 was enacted, this law specified that there is punishment for conspiracies that interfere with civil rights. No racial motivation needed.10 Three years later 18 U.S.C 245 was enacted specifying punishment for interference with particular enumerated rights on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.11  In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, an activist for social justice, is criticized by White America for kneeling in honor of the African American lives lost, during the National Anthem. His movement considered subversive to the American way has been nationally recognized, inciting a movement of solidarity, in which he was endorsed by Nike Sports in support of his stance for social justice.  


1.Wikipedia contributors, “Reconstruction Amendments,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reconstruction_Amendments&oldid=870658144 (accessed November 30, 2018).

 2. Ibid.

3. Thomas Grose, “TOWARDS EQUALITY FOR ALL. (COVER STORY).” U.S. News & World Report 135, no. 9 (September 22, 2003): 70-72. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.ccis.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mth&AN=10819180. accessed on 11/7/2018

4. Eric Foner, Give me Liberty!: an American History, 5th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016), 663

5.  Ibid.

6.  Ibid., 675.

7. Renita Seabrook and Heather Wyatt-Nichol, The Ugly Side of America: Institutional Oppression and Race, “Journal of Public Management and Social Policy: Vol.23: No.1, Article 3 (2016), 27

8. Ibid.

9. Caroline Simon. Four people charged with federal crimes in connection with the 2017 Charlottesville rally. USA Today. Last modified October 2, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/02/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-2017-new-arrests-made/1498725002/ accessed 12/1/2018.

10. Brian Levin. “From Slavery to Hate Crime Laws: The Emergence of Race and Status-Based Protection in American Criminal Law.” Journal of Social Issues 58, no. 2 (June 2002): 235-236. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.ccis.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=6556311

11. Ibid., 236


  • Douglas, Kelly Brown. “Stop the Violence: Breaking the Cycle of Anti-Black Violence.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible & Theology 71, no. 4 (October 2017): 398–407. doi:10.1177/0020964317716130.
  • Foner, Eric, Give me Liberty!: an American History, 5th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
  • Goff, Phillip A., and Kimberly B. Kahn. Racial bias in policing: Why we know less than we should. Social Issues and Policy Review, 6(1), (2012): 177-210
  • Grose, Thomas K. “Toward Equality For All. (Cover Story).” U.S. News & World Report 135, no. 9 (September 22, 2003): 70–72. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.ccis.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mth&AN=10819180.
  • Levin, Brian. “From Slavery to Hate Crime Laws: The Emergence of Race and Status-Based Protection in American Criminal Law.” Journal of Social Issues 58, no. 2 (June 2002): 227. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.ccis.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pbh&AN=6556311.
  • Seabrook, Renita, and Wyatt-Nichol, Heather “The Ugly Side of America: Institutional Oppression and Race, “Journal of Public Management & Social Policy: Vol. 23: No. 1, Article 3. Last modified May 2016. Available at: http://digitalscholarship.tsu.edu/jpmsp/vol23/iss1/3
  • Tyler, Tom R., and Yuen J Huo. Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002.
  • Walker, Samuel, Cassia Spohn, and Miriam DeLone, M. The color of justice. (3rd E.). Beverly Hills, CA: Wadsworth, 2007.
  • Weitzer, Ronald, and Steven A. Tuch. Race and policing in America: Conflict and reform. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Wikipedia contributors, “Reconstruction Amendments,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reconstruction_Amendments&oldid=870658144 (accessed November 30, 2018).


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