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Race/Gender/Ethnicity and Law


Race/Gender/Ethnicityand Law

The Plessy v.Fergusson decision and how it affected minority citizens

When the Civil war ended, African Americans began enjoying some oftheir newly-found rights. For instance, they did everything theycould to acquire education for themselves and their children. Duringthe reconstruction period, education was the most pertinent part ofthe African Americans lives. Even if they still faced the problems ofsegregation in schools as well as inadequate public funds, theliteracy levels among the black rose steadily from three to 50% injust 30 years (Berman, 2016).). Besides, the number of AfricanAmerican children in schools increased from 25,000 in 1860 to 149,581 in 1870. At the same time, the number of men voters rose from 0in 1860 to 700,000 in 1867. However, this progress was short-livedsince the Supreme Court halted it in its decision in Plessy v.Ferguson in 1896 (Berman, 2016).

Plessy was a shoemaker from New Orleans and whose parentage wasone-eighth black and seven-eighth white. The complainant was againstbeing segregated on trains. With the help of prominentAfrican-American business and civic leaders, Plessy sued the state ofLouisiana for alleged violation of his constitutional rights.Particularly, Plessy had the opinion that the state of Louisianaviolated his rights as enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendments,especially the equal protection clause that forbids states fromdenying certain people the equal protection of the law within theirjurisdictions (Berman, 2016).

Plessey’s argument was that if one could be segregated solelybecause of his/her skin color, then discrimination against redheadsshould also be considered legal. He further maintained thatsegregation of the African Americans meant that these people wereinferior. However, the Supreme Court ruled against him and introducedthe &quotseparate but equal doctrine&quot which was used as thebenchmark for segregation by most states for several decades. Manystates were encouraged to initiate efforts aimed at relegatingAfrican Americans to an inferior status. Consequently, strictdiscriminatory laws were enacted to forcibly separate the AfricanAmericans from the whites in every aspect of the society’s life,such as hotels, restrooms, hospitals, cemeteries, publictransportation, sports, and prisons (Berman, 2016).

As such, the Supreme Court in the Plessy and Ferguson authorizedracial oppression against the blacks across the country.Consequently, many of the rights that the African Americans hadachieved both at the federal and state level during theReconstruction Era were taken away. For example, African-Americanswere prevented from voting. Besides, in some cities, curfews thatrequired all African Americans to be in their homes by 10:00 pm wereannounced (Berman, 2016).

More so, the ruling established some communication barriers betweenthe whites and the blacks that halted the African Americans socialprogress for several decades (Berman, 2016). In some states, such asGeorgia, it was extremely hard for blacks to access education. Forexample, in 1897, the Richmond Country school board closed the onlyhigh school attended by African American children. At the detrimentof the education of the blacks, the Richmond County school boardopened two high schools for the White children. Additionally, whilethe school board provided enough resources for educating whitechildren it only funded half the school-aged black children (Berman,2016).

Other southern states, such as Mississippi, stated that any blackperson not following the separate but equal law could even beincarcerated. Peaceful acts by African Americans trying to regaintheir lost liberties triggered violent responses. Most Southerngovernments failed to follow the Supreme Court ruling that statesshould provide separate but equal opportunities to African Americans(Berman, 2016).

National Securityand the Incarceration of Japanese during World War II

Before the Japanese attacked the Pearly Harbor, America was involvedin the European war only through supplying ammunitions to England andother antifascist countries.The attack on Pearl Harbor raisedfears about the state of the national security. There was a suspicionthat the Japanese Americans remained loyal to their country oforigin. This resulted in an increase in the Anti-Japanese paranoiabecause of their large numbers in the West Coast. There was the fearthat in case Japan invaded the American mainland, the JapaneseAmericans would support the troops from their mother country(National Archives, 2016).

In a bid to reassure Americans of their safety, President FranklinRoosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066. The Executive Order hadtremendous effects on all people of Japanese ancestry, both aliensand citizens who lived outside and inside of the Pacific militaryzone. The aim of the order was to avert any possible espionage aswell as to protect individuals of Japanese origin from being harmedby Americans who held strong anti-Japanese attitudes. However, theassertion by the American government that the rationale for therelocation of people of Japanese origin was for their benefit wasstrongly opposed by the internees. For example, some internees arguedthat if the sole purpose of the relocation was for their security,then why was it that the guns of the soldiers providing security inthe assembly centers pointed inside and not outward? (NationalArchives, 2016).

The executive order resulted in the relocation and evacuation ofabout 122,000 children, men and women of Japanese descent on theUnited States` West Coast. A large part of those who were relocatedfollowing the order, approximately 70,000, were American citizens.The majority of the rest had stayed in American for between 20 and 40years. During the entire period of the war, there is no singleJapanese-American of Japanese national was ever found guilty of thecrime of espionage or sabotage (Calishere, 2015).

Within weeks, all people of Japanese origin irrespective of whetheror not they were young or old, citizens or enemy aliens, poor or richwere supposed to assemble at specific centers near their hometown.They were transported to permanent concetration centers locatedoutside the restricted military zones. For instance, the group fromthe Western Washington states was taken to the Assembly Centerlocated at Puyallup Fairgrounds before being relocated to a permanentconcentration camp. All the camps were located in the remote parts ofthe country such as in Arkansas Heart Mountain, Arizona Granada,and California Topaz, among other remote areas (National Archives,2016).

During their incarceration, the Japanese families lived in theconcentration camps. Some of the camps were home to about 8,000people. As such, the relocation centers operated as communitiesbecause the government provided food, medical care, and schools(Calishere, 2015). The imprisonment of people of Japanese origintriggered a heated political and constitutional debate. Consequently,one woman and two men, all of whom were Japanese-Americans, in the1940s, challenged the constitutionality of the curfew orders andrelocations of the people of Japanese descent (Calishere, 2015).

As the war was coming to an end, the government started closing therelocation centers. President Roosevelt rescinded his executive order9066 in December 1944, and this marked the beginning of a six-monthprocess of returning the internees to their homes and shutting downthe camps. While some of the occupants of the relocation centersdecided to go back to their hometowns, others choose to find newplaces to live. For instance, only 30% of the persons who initiallylived in Tacoma returned home after the war (National Archives,2016).In the post World War II years, the internees had to rebuildtheir lives because most of them had lost their savings, business,homes, and properties. Additionally, all persons of Japanese originborn in America after the Second World War were denied their rightsto be naturalized until 1952 (Calishere, 2015).


Calishere. (2015). Relocation and Incarceration of JapaneseAmericans during world war II. Accessed on November 24, 2016.https://calisphere.org/exhibitions/essay/8/relocation/

Berman, J. (2016). Supreme Court decisions that changed America.Accessed on November 24, 2016.http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Resources/aaccprograms/diversity/brownvboard/Pages/supremecourt.aspx

National Archives.(2016). Japanese relocation during world War II.Accessed on November 24, 2016.https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation