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Racial EqualityThe Politics Of Racial Inequality

This discussion will now look at how racial inequality manifests itself in a variety of constitutional, legal, policy, and cultural practices.

In the United States, the Constitution accommodated the interests of the slaveholding states in three areas: first, the famous "3/5ths clause" that counted five enslaved blacks as three free persons for purposes of taxation and representation; second, the new Congress was prohibited from even considering abolishing the importation of slaves until 1809; and third, the Constitution (Article IV, section 2) required states to assist in returning any person escaped from bondage back to the state from which they had escaped. Indeed, citing the intent of the framers of the Constitution, the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that enslaved Africans and their descendants in the United States were never intended to be citizens. The Court ruled that black people "had no rights that the white man was bound to respect."

Racial equality was constitutionally established through three amendments during the Reconstruction Era. The Thirteenth Amendment barred slavery or involuntary servitude, the Wedgwood medallion bearing the inscription "Am I not a man and a brother?" (1787). Jasper ware. The knowledge that all humans are almost completely identical on the genetic level has led many social scientists to consider the use of the term race as more of a social concept than a biological term. WILBERFORCE HOUSE, HULL CITY MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES, UK / THE BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY, WWW.BRIDGEMAN.CO.UK Fourteenth Amendment established standards of due process and equal treatment under the law for all citizens, and the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed that the right to vote could not be denied due to race, color, or previous condition of servitude. However, by the end of the nineteenth century blacks were effectively disenfranchised as a result of violence, intimidation, and a range of tricks adopted by states (e.g., the Grandfather Clause, white primaries, poll taxes, and literacy tests) to avoid compliance with the Fifteenth Amendment. Furthermore, the Supreme Court issued decisions that limited the effectiveness of the civil rights acts passed by Congress during Reconstruction. Finally, in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" accommodations in public transportation were not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. This phrase, "separate but equal," was then applied to all spheres of life and epitomized the era of "Jim Crow" segregation. Facilities were separate but they were anything but equal. For example, white schools in some states received ten times the financial support compared to black schools (Fairclough).

In Germany, the biological determinism of nineteenth-century writers such as Gobineau was influential in the emergence of nationalism, fascism, and Nazism. For instance, Jewish people were seen as a biologically inferior race that represented a cultural and political threat to the superiority and purity of the Aryan race idolized by Adolf Hitler. As a result, they were subjected to economic and political ghettoization, used as forced labor, and targeted for genocide. Also, in South Africa, a gradual process of racial separateness, or apartheid, began with the Native Land Act of 1913 that divided land to promote white ownership and domination as well as limited face-to-face interaction between blacks and whites. With the victory of the Nationalist Party in 1948, apartheid was fully institutionalized as a complete set of policies whereby the white minority completely segregated and dominated the black majority (Frederickson, 1981, pp. 239–249).

Countries have also used immigration policy as a discriminatory device, often basing immigration law on notions that certain racial groups were inferior and represented cultural or economic threats. In the mid-1800s in the United States, Chinese laborers were relied on to help build the transcontinental railroad. However, a nativist movement emerged, with white working-class men viewing Chinese laborers as an economic threat. As a result, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prohibited Chinese immigration as well as the naturalization of Chinese laborers already in the United States. By 1917, U.S. immigration law prohibited immigration of labor from all of Asia except for Japan, as well as placing a tax on Mexican employees. Also in the early twentieth century, Australia adopted immigration laws designed to limit the number of Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian immigrants. Such laws were adopted on the biological-determinist argument that these immigrants were racially inferior and a cultural threat to the superior "white Australia" (Miles, pp. 90–98).

Institutionalized racial inequality is also intertwined with economic inequality. In the United States, enslaved blacks provided a labor source for the Southern agrarian economy. Even after slavery was abolished, Southern blacks were still treated as a source of tenant farmers and laborers. In the twentieth century, blacks have typically faced twice the unemployment rate of whites and have struggled against discrimination in hiring, promotion, and pay. In 1942, due to labor shortages caused by World War II, the U.S. government established the Bracero program, under which Mexico sent to the United States workers who were given some legal status but exploited as cheap labor. Also during World War II, Japanese-Americans, but not Italian-or German-Americans, were subject to relocation and internment because of President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 in 1942, resulting in a gross violation of civil rights as well as a loss of property and businesses.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ephemeris to Evolution - Historical BackgroundEquality - Racial Equality - Racism As Ideology, The Politics Of Racial Inequality, The Struggle For Racial Equality, The Continuing Struggle