Paper 2 - Daniel Wittels The Supreme Court's Leading Role...

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Daniel Wittels The Supreme Court’s Leading Role Racial Equality Since the end of the Civil War and the creation of the 13 th Amendment, issues of racial equality have surrounded and at times consumed this nation. The actions and beliefs of individuals in this regard have been as diverse and numerous as the citizens themselves. Even when narrowing the scope of actions taken simply to the federal government level, thousands of proposals and ideas have garnered support from numerous actors in our government. Looking into each of the three branches that comprise our federal government, it becomes apparent that some branches have taken a consistently more aggressive role than others. The three active players in the racial equality spectrum have been Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Although evidence has shown that Congress has been on the forefront of policy regarding disenfranchised minorities and that various presidents have been important in creating policy to attempt to level minority rights in public service, the historical evidence points to the Supreme Court as the primary body responsible for attempting to assure equality among races throughout all issues. When Congress approved the 14 th Amendment in 1866 and sent it to the states for ratification, it set the groundwork for many policies and judgments in the future. The amendment itself states that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” i This legislation was aimed at ensuring equal rights specifically to ex-slaves (African-Americans), but has since has been used to mean all minorities. As important as this amendment was and still is, Congress has done little to ensure compliance with the 14th Amendment with subsequent civil rights legislation. In fact, no
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significant piece of legislation dealing with racial equality arose from the Capitol after reconstruction until the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and a similar act in1960. The acts themselves were meant to prohibit scare tactics used by whites at the polls in order to prevent blacks from voting, but did little to alleviate the problems black voters faced in the south. In fact the 1957 and 1960 Acts resulted in the addition of only “an extra 3% Black voters to the electoral roll for the 1960 election.” ii Four years later Congress passed (and the states ratified) the 24 th Amendment, which prohibited poll taxes that were used to disenfranchise many black voters in the south. The next year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”) which attempted to solve the issue of low black voter turnout due to scare tactics and other burdens set forth by Jim Crow laws in the south. Although the amendment and VRA were more successful in their goals, there were still many problems Congress had not attempted to solve through legislation. In the more recent past, Congress has attempted to pass legislation attempting to
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Paper 2 - Daniel Wittels The Supreme Court's Leading Role...

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