HGov Chapter 5 Summary: Equal Rights


Equal Rights sign
During the past few decades, the United States has undergone a revolution in the legal status of its traditionally disadvantaged groups, including African Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. Such groups are now provided equal protection under the law in areas such as education, employment, and voting. Discrimination by race, sex, and ethnicity has not been eliminated from American life, but it is no longer substantially backed by the force of law.

Traditionally disadvantaged Americans have achieved fuller equality primarily as a result of their struggle for greater rights. The Supreme Court has been an instrument of change for minority groups. Its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which declared racial segregation in public schools to be an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause, was a major breakthrough in equal rights. Through its busing, affirmative action and other rulings, such as those providing equal access to the vote, the Court has also mandated the active promotion of  integration and equal opportunities.

However, because civil rights policy involves large issues of social values and the distribution of society’s resources, questions of civil rights are politically explosive. For this reason, legislatures and executives as well as the courts have been deeply involved in such issues, at times siding with established groups and sometimes backing the claims of underprivileged groups.

In recent years, affirmative action programs, programs designed to achieve equality of result for African Americans, women, Hispanic Americans, and other disadvantaged groups, have become a civil rights battleground. Affirmative action has had the strong support of civil rights groups and has won the qualified endorsement of the Supreme Court, but it has been opposed by those who claim that it unfairly discriminates against white males. Busing is another issue that has provoked deep divisions within American society.


Summer Assignment
Read and take Cornell notes:
5.1 The Struggle for Equality (read pp.143-166)
5.2 Equality of Result (read pp.167-176)

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