democracy

Civil Rights

The bill of rights can be thought of as the first 10 Amendments to the constitution as a

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kind of sacred guarantee citizen protection from excessive interruptions from the government.

As seen in history, that was what the founding fathers intended. However, what happens

when one citizen claims their constitutional rights clash with the interests of other people or

involved parties? There are challenges to this, most of which are legal. Some of the battles

make their way to the Supreme Court, where a middle ground is identified as well as the need

for a common civil society, what is called civil rights and liberties (Smith & Hansen 2008).

Using the freedom of speech, Congress shall not make any laws abridging these rights. That

is how the First Amendment reads. However, rules are all the time made which do that.

American history has seen the constant challenges on restrictions on free speech to its

citizens, of which students raise some. These students feel their First Amendment Rights are

restricted because they are considered students (Zietlow, 2005). There are also what are

considered landmark cases, which are famous court cases that have changed the way the

United States operates. The first landmark Supreme Court case that is important to know is

the Marbury vs. Madison. This case produced the leading power in the Supreme Court and

the Federal Judicial branch, which is known as the Judicial Review.

The Judicial review has the power to declare laws unconstitutional Marbury, who was

a judge appointed by John Adams in 1801 after he had already lost the election to Thomas

Jefferson, the incoming President. Jefferson’s secretary of state, James Madison, refused to

give the appointing letter to Marbury. It caused there to be a fight between John Adams, a

federalist and anti-federalist Thomas Jefferson. Though it was unclear what the job of the

Court was, it was in the ruling of this case that the Court’s roles were defined (Schlanger,

1999). Marshal laid out the responsibility of the judicial branch after he declared the US

constitution was the supreme law of the land. He also made it clear that it was the Judicial job

to interpret laws as they pertain to the US Constitution. Marshal also claimed that if a law

should go against the constitution, then it was the work of the judicial branch to strike down

the law and make it null and void, something known as judicial review. With this having been

established, the three branches of the government were closer to being equal, and the judicial

review provided the check the judicial branch has on the other two. With this, it gives the

other two branches the ability to stop it from doing something wrong.

Another civil rights case that had the most significant impact on American democracy

was the 14th Amendment Cases. It defined citizenship following the Civil war, and it stated,

for the first time, that state laws must be constitutional. With this, the state was could not

violate any of its citizen’s rights, and it states that no one shall be denied equal protection

under the law, by the state. It is these essential; words that provide the basis for the appeal

and using two examples of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. the Board of Education of

Topeka Kansas. In the first case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, it happened during a time of high racial

tension, especially in the South, in 1980, just 30 years after the Civil War (Hersch, 2006). It

was also during the time of the abolition of slavery. Homer Plessy, who was living in

Louisiana, was one-eighth African American. Though he wanted to change things in his

country and being an activist, he intentionally wanted to be arrested while boarding a train,

with his main aim to fight segregation. He took a first-class seat, and on informing the

conductor that he was one-eighth black, he got arrested for refusing to go to the ”all blacks”

train car (Smith & Welch, 1989). When he was found guilty, he sued the judge, Ferguson,

claiming violation of his 14th Amendment Rights to equal protection. His case saw its way

up to the Supreme Court. The Court, however, ruled that public facilities could be segregated

as long as they were equal.

For this reason, the case was referred to as the separate but equal case the precedent,

guiding all future cases, allowed segregation laws to spread throughout the South and are

referred to as Jim Crow laws. They also provide different accommodations between the

blacks and whites when it came to every public facility. Sixty years later, the call for the

extension of civil rights for African Americans took hold of America (Schlanger, 2006).

Brown vs. Board of Education is segregationist laws that existed in many parts of

America. They got challenged by several cases brought by African-American suing schools

over segregationist laws. Linda Brown, who was seven years old from Topeka Kansas, had to

go to an all-black school despite living near an all-white school. The Supreme Court, in a

unanimous decision, voted that segregating schools based on race was very wrong, and a

violation of the 14th amendments promise to provide all with equal protection (Card &

Krueger, 1992). The precedent of separate-but-equal in Plessy vs. Ferguson had no place in

public education systems. By simply separating based on race, these laws created an odd

situation. For this reason, the Board of education overturned Plessy vs. Fergusson and opened

the door to challenge segregation throughout the United States (Neumark & Stock, 2006).

with witnesses for defense as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment Following In Re Gault,

juveniles could not be denied the same due process rights as adults.

Lastly, looking at First Amendment cases concerning free speech, both involve the

rights of students. An example to be used is the tinker vs. Des Moines in Iowa school district.

The case was about three students who were wearing black armbands to school in protest of

the Vietnam War. After they got suspended, they sued the school claiming that their rights to

free speech in the 1st Amendment, had been violated. The Court ruled seven to two, and it

was in favor of the students. In an opinion delivered by Justice Abe, the Court claimed that

the protest did not, in any way, disrupt the learning process or environment and that the

students did not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gates. The Court also

ruled that free speech is more than just words and can also include clothing or art or any way

that people decide to express themselves (Ringquist, 2005). This precedent continues to be

debated by students who believe that their free speech rights are being violated. It is seen

when schools impose the use of school uniforms and dress codes, given the courts have ruled

in favor of the schools.

Though it can be said that democracy is not good at handling chronic societal

problems, it plays its fair share in handling the issues to some extent. In public goods

provision and handling of environmental issues, democracy is weak at coming to a conclusive

decision (Touche, & Rogers, 2005). The decision should, however, be one that fits all and for

good to all. With the use of bicameralism, separation of power, and use of federal systems,

political innovation can be seen to be hard and is made worse by these factors. The main

reason why democracy then becomes desirable is that there is political competition, and to

avoid such kinds of win-or take politics, there has to be competitive politics.

In conclusion, the present and what history made of democracy and people’s rights was more

of monopoly politics. They are the destructive forces not only in politics but also in

economics. There need to be systems in place that can act without the government having to

come together with an opposition party to make things happen.

References

Zietlow, R. E. (2005). To secure these rights: Congress, courts and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Rutgers Law Review, 57, 945–1007.

Touche, G. E., & Rogers, G. O. (2005). Environmental equity: Disparate community

outcomes within Texas? Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 48, 891–915.

Smith, S. A., & Hansen, A. (2008). Federalism’s false hope: How state civil rights laws are

systematically under-enforced in federal forums. Hofstra Labor and Employment Law

Journal, 26, 63–100.

Smith J. P., & Welch, F. R. (1989). Black economic progress after Myrdal. Journal of

Economic Literature, 27, 519–564

Schlanger, M. (2006). Civil rights injunctions over time. New York University Law Review,

81, 550–630.

Schlanger, M. (1999). Beyond the hero judge: Institutional reform litigation as litigation.

Michigan Law Review, 97, 1994–2036.

Ringquist, E. J. (2005). Assessing evidence of environmental inequities: A meta-analysis.

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24, 223–247.

Neumark, D., & Stock, W. A. (2006). The labor market effects of race discrimination laws.

Economic Inquiry, 44, 385–419.

Hersch, J. (2006). Skin tone effects among African Americans: Perceptions and reality.

American Economic Review, 96, 251–255.

Card, D., & Krueger, A. (1992). School quality and black-white relative earnings: A direct

assessment. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 107, 151–200.

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