I. Two Centuries of Struggle (138-141)
A. Conceptions of Equality
A belief in equal rights has often led to a belief in equality of opportunity (that everyone should have the same chance). American society does not emphasize equal results or equal rewards.
B. Early American Views of Equality
Few colonists, let alone the Founders, believed in true equality. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention did their best to avoid facing the issue of slavery.
C. The Constitution and Inequality
The word equality does not appear in the original Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment forbids the states from denying to anyone equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that classifications that bear a rational relationship to some legitimate governmental purpose (such as age classifications) are constitutional. Racial and ethnic classifications are inherently suspect and are valid only if they serve a compelling public interest. Classifications based on gender fit somewhere between these two extremes and are presumed neither to be constitutional nor to be unconstitutional but must bear a substantial relationship to an important legislative purpose.
II. Race, the Constitution, and Public Policy (141-151)
A. The Era of Slavery
During the era of slavery the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans had no rights under the government whether they were free or slave. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery.
B. The Era of Reconstruction and Resegregation
During the era of reconstruction and resegregation, laws mandated separate facilities for African Americans and whites. The Supreme Court sanctioned segregation in 1896 (Plessy v. Ferguson), declaring that segregation in public facilities was not unconstitutional as long as they were substantially equal.
C. The Era of Civil Rights
The era of resegregation came to an end when the Supreme Court declared the separate but equal doctrine unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which held school segregation unconstitutional. The civil rights movement dates back to 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Sit-ins, protests, and marches characterized the civil rights movement. Congress reacted to the civil rights movement by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made illegal many forms of racial discrimination.
D. Getting and Using the Right to Vote
The struggle for suffrage, the right to vote, was one of the most important elements of the civil rights movement. Although the Fifteenth Amendment gave African Americans the right to vote, many states found ways, such as poll taxes and the white primary, to keep African Americans away from the polls. The Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) prohibited poll taxes and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 further guaranteed African Americans the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act resulted in the election of many African Americans to public office. It also ensured that African-American votes would not be diluted through racial gerrymandering. The Act was interpreted in the 1980s to mandate the creation of minority-majority districts. After the 1990 census several states redrew congressional districts into odd shapes designed to give minorities a numerical majority. Several Supreme Court cases have challenged this arrangement. In 1995 the court held that the use of race as a predominant factor in drawing district lines should be presumed to be unconstitutional. However, in 1999 the Court declared that consideration of race is not automatically unconstitutional if the states primary motivation was political rather than racial.
E. Other Minority Groups
America is heading toward a minority majority where minority groups will outnumber Caucasians of European descent. Native Americans are the oldest and among the most exploited and impoverished minority groups. Hispanic Americans will soon displace African Americans as the largest minority group. Asian Americans suffered most during World War II when Japanese Americans were interned in camps. Korematsu v. United States (1944) upheld the internment. All minorities have benefited from the nondiscrimination policies originally passed to protect African Americans.
III. Women, the Constitution, and Public Policy (151-159)
A. The Battle for the Vote
The first womens rights activists were products of the abolitionist movement who worked for an end to slavery and the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) gave women the right to vote.
B. The Doldrums: 1920-1960
Protectionism rather than equality dominated public policy toward women. Laws protected women from overwork and men from competition from women. Public policy was designed to preserve traditional motherhood and the place of the woman in the home. The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in the 1920s but often seen as a threat to the family, and it languished for decades.
C. The Second Feminist Wave
The feminist movement was reborn during the civil rights movement. Supreme Court cases of Reed v. Reed (1971) and Craig v. Boren (1976) declared arbitrary gender classification as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and established the medium scrutiny standard for gender classification. Many state laws have been struck down on the basis of this standard. In many cases, these have involved men seeking equality with women.
D. Women in the Workplace
The percentage of women in the workplace has increased dramatically. Congress has made important progress in the area of gender discrimination in employment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Civil Rights and Womens Equity in Employment Act of 1991 have all helped protect women against discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court has also voided many laws that tended to discriminate against women in employment.
E. Wage Discrimination and Comparable Worth
Comparable worth is the concept that women should be paid the same as men for jobs that require comparable skill. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the idea of comparable worth.
F. Women in the Military
Two differences in the treatment of men and women in the military service is that women are not required to register for the draft and women are not permitted to serve in combat. Women have served as combat pilots.
G. Sexual Harassment
The Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that no single factor is required to prove to win a sexual harassment case and the law is violated when the workplace environment would reasonably be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive. Sexual harassment has most recently been a problem in the military.
IV. Newly Active Groups Under the Civil Rights Umbrella (159-163)
A. Civil Rights and the Graying of America
The elderly is the fastest growing segment of the American population. Progress has been made to eliminate discrimination based on age, especially in the area of employment.
B. Are the Young a Disadvantaged Group Too?
The young have suffered from inferior treatment under the law. An increasing number of court cases have involved the rights of young people.
C. Civil Rights and the People with Disabilities
Disabled persons suffer from both direct and indirect discrimination. Several laws have been passed to protect the disabled from discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires reasonable accommodations for the disabled. Determining who is disabled has generated controversy.
D. Gay and Lesbian Rights
Gays and lesbians have faced discrimination in hiring, education, access to public accommodations, and housing. Important victories have been won for gay rights. The place for gays in the military has been particularly controversial. The Pentagons policy of dont ask, dont tell reaffirms the strict prohibition against homosexual activity.
V. Affirmative Action (163-166)
Affirmative action involves efforts to bring about increased employment, promotion, or admission for members of groups who have suffered the effects of past discrimination. The goal is to move beyond equal opportunity toward equal results through special rules that recruit or otherwise give special treatment to previously disadvantaged groups.
The constitutional status of affirmative action has not been very clear. The federal government has mandated that all state and local governments adopt an affirmative action program. The Supreme Court, however, has vacillated in its decisions on affirmative action. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court held that a state university could not admit less qualified individuals solely because of their race, but upheld the practice of using race as a criterion for admission. In 1990, they upheld a specific affirmative action program that was not devised to remedy past discrimination. In 1995 the Court overturned this decision in Adarand Constructors v. Pena holding that federal programs that classify people by race, even for an ostensibly benign purpose such as expanding opportunities for members of minorities, should be presumed to be unconstitutional. Such programs must be narrowly defined to accomplish a compelling governmental interest. Thus the potential impact of affirmative action programs was limited.
There is little support from the general public for affirmative action programs. Many view them as reverse discrimination and believe that merit is the only fair basis for distributing benefits. In 1996 California went as far as banning state affirmative action programs through a state proposition. Proponents of affirmative action argue that what constitutes merit is highly subjective and can embody prejudices of which the decision-maker may be quite unaware. They believe that affirmative action accomplishes important social goals.
VI. Understanding Civil Rights and Public Policy (167-169)
A. Civil Rights and Democracy
Equality is a basic principle of democracy. Equality and individual liberty often cause democracy to be in conflict with itself when the majority wishes to silence some ideas it would rather not hear or to deprive the minority of its rights. Minorities, however, have made many gains even when they lacked one essential component of democratic power: the vote.
B. Civil Rights and the Scope of Government
Civil rights laws increase the scope and power of government by telling individuals and institutions that there are things they must do and things they cannot do. In addition, civil rights, like civil liberties, is an area in which increased government activity in protecting basic rights can lead to greater checks on government by those who benefit from such protections.