The main civil rights issue is not whether or not government can treat people differently, but rather such differences are reasonable.
Government treats people differently by income levels, no one complains.
Early Black Leadership strategy:
Publicize civil rights injustices
Get issues decided in the courts instead of congress
After the strategy had been successful, politics become more convention
Focused on economic development, improvement of housing, etc.
Fourteenth amendment challenges
"equal protection of the laws", read broadly, implies color-blind constitution
"equal protection of the laws", read narrowly, implies that blacks and whites only have certain common rights, and that otherwise they can be treated equally.
NAACP got on the scene; its publication The Crisis was edited by W. E. B. Du Bois
Began fighting legal battles
Legal battles are much easier to fight than policy-making politics
Dredd Scott V. Sanford:
Supreme court claimed that blacks were not citizens.
Plessey v. Fergusson.
Adolph Plessy claimed that being forced on a black-only train car was unconstitutional; Supreme court said that "Separate but equal" was constitutional
Separate but equal
Jim Crow – differentiate via race
Brown v. Board of Education
Actually was a consolidation of three separate cases.
Basis of decision: separate but equal isn’t constitutional
Original intent response: Plessy v. Fergusson was WRONG, but Brown v. Board of Education was correct but for the wrong reason.
South resisted strongly
Southern Manifesto signed by southern congressmen claimed Brown v. Board was "abuse of judicial power"
National guard was used to enforce
Types of segregation
DeJure – segregation required by law
DeFacto – segregation that people naturally do themselves.
Swann v. Charlotee-Meckenburg Board of Education
School board assigned students to schools based upon geography
Federal district court ordered bussing to achieve integration
Supreme court upheld bussing
Resulting interpretation of constitution:
Bakke v. UC Davis
Bakke applied to UC Davis for medical school, sued because UC Davis had racial quotas for entry
Supreme court said "Race can be a factor, but not the final one"
Adarrand v. Pena
State was giving 10% discount to bids from minorities
Supreme court struck law down
The latest supreme court decision
The issue is no longer a race or class – now it is only protecting individuals: unless you can show specific discriminatory injury, the government cannot give you compensation
Current standard used: Strict Scrutiny
A law which allegedly discriminates on the basis of race, it is presumed to be unconstitutional.
Thus, evidence must be presented to convince them otherwise.
The Black Campaign in congress
First task: Get civil rights on the political agenda
Nonviolent civil disobedience worked well
Hard to control and keep nonviolent
Younger blacks, angry, caused riots, etc.
Resulted in many digging in their heels against "the troublemakers"
Gender as an issue
Originally: Reasobableness standard – is the law reasonable when drawing distinction between men and women.
The court moved towards strict scrutiny
But it has since backtracked – to a suspect classification:
It must be reasonable, but we don’t necessarily have strict scrutiny
Griswald v. Connecticut (1964)
Connecticut law (wasn’t enforced) said married persons could not obtain birth control
Griswald was a local leader of Planned Parenthood
Griswald bought contraceptives, was convicted.
Supreme court said: when you connect the various rights, you end up getting a pretty large territory. Specific rights referred to in the bill of rights are called "umbral" – from those rights, you have emanations, covering an area they call penumbral. The Whole penumbral area is "the right of privacy."
Roe V. Wade
Says persons have rights
Thus you must define what a person is.
The supreme court says persons exist after 6 months of gestation – point of viability.
Even though modern technology has pushed viability back to 4 months, supreme court hasn’t changed its mind
"viability" is an illogical idea – what one-year-old is viable?
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
Somewhat narrowed Roe v. Wade – state could say "come in one day to schedule an abortion, but you must get it on a different day"
Yet the state may not make you watch a film about how far-developed the baby is
"State cannot force you to define your idea of life in a certain way"
Right of privacy -> substantive due process
Colorado’s Proposition 2
Hate-crimes law – persons who commit crimes under various circumstances for certain reasons might be subject to greater punishment
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
"make reasonable accommodations" to help those with disabilities
Government has age-discriminatory laws
1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
This material copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
These notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High School.