Liberty and Justice: For Some or for All?
Ever since the Founding Fathers, the United States has struggled to fulfill its promise that all of its citizens are created and treated equal. Through hundreds of years of blood, empowerment, justice and demands, we have reached this goal to the best of our abilities. As far as civil rights and liberties are concerned, no one is denied any based on unfair or unchangeable characteristics, like race, sex, or orientation. That is both a constitutional and a real guarantee.
Through many events and historic laws and amendments, some most recent as the Civil Rights movements of the 60’s, or the legality of gay marriage and legislation of anti discriminatory laws of the 2000’s, the federal government has done all in its power, mostly through public pressure and legislature, and all but attained the goal of equality and civil rights for each citizen. According to the ACLU, “Federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination or denial in housing, credit, employment, or service at a business that is open to the public because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin. Some forms of illegal discrimination may be subtler. For example, an employer or housing or credit provider may adopt policies that cause unjustified and disproportionate harm to people of a particular race, ethnicity, or national origin. The Constitution prevents the government from subjecting you to worse treatment because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin in any situation.” The same applies to the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status. Specifics for each group, among others can be found here on the ACLU website.
The United States, however, like all countries, has trouble creating complete equality with these policies. There will always be biased judges and juries tainting our courts, and there will always be prejudiced people on the streets and in our schools and workplaces. There’s really nothing much that such a large country that guarantees free speech and expression can do about that unfortunate fact, and true perceived equality in every citizen’s eyes is unachievable, and only exists in a perfect utopia. Without sripping the right of free speech, the federal government has done all it can, and a pretty decent job, at that, to guarantee equality and civil rights to its citizens.
Prejudice, and the scapegoat of free speech, is rightfully limited in this country, however. Workplaces and schools will rightfully discipline you harshly for it, and if prejudice is the motivator behind any state or federal crime, you may be subjected to a rapid increase in sentencing and scrutiny, as per hate crime laws . These laws apply to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, so anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator.
Back to the justice system, there are disparities and inequalities between certain groups, as well as prejudiced judges and juries. They exist, and that is an undeniable fact. The government, however, does all it can to preserve judicial integrity and rid the justice system of prejudiced judges, while also guaranteeing the victims of prejudiced verdicts to fair trials. Why should we believe that a system that does so much to guarantee rights and fairness for all be considered prejudiced, unequal, and unfair?
There are certainly things our country can do better, cracking down on things that disproportionately affect a certain group, like poverty, bad schooling, drug crimes, and familial courts. All of these examples are things that, when fixed, will take us one step closer to perfect equality. But, as far as the law is concerned, we are all equal to one another, and we all have access to the same opportunities and rights no matter our skin color, gender, or sexuality.
America is a beacon of opportunity, and has been that way for its lifespan, attracting people from all over the globe searching for a better life. It is no doubt that this is part of the reasoning behind the push for guaranteed opportunity and legal rights regardless of ethnicity or race. Another reason is the melting pot mentality of American culture, which sees people from all different ethnic backgrounds sharing the same language, religion, customs, and beliefs. This helps almost everyone, including the law, to see and judge people for who they are, not based on ethnicity, as that is something becoming increasingly irrelevant and unnoticable. Sure, there are still close minded people that refuse to accept this reality, and they come in many different forms. But they are a minority, and in no way represent the views of the vast majority of Americans, or the laws we abide by. The voices of loud, hurtful minorities should never overshadow the truth, or the voices of level headed, tolerant Americans.
The struggle to guarantee civil rights and liberties has been an arduous one, one some will argue is still ongoing. But the strides we have made to see all Americans as equal before the law, while removing close minded prejudiced individuals from positions of judgement, has been immensely successful. While we still have work to do to help create true equality, rather than just civil and legal equality, we must recognize the progress we have made towards this goal, and we must recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel is close. Together we will reach those goals, on top of the foundations that American laws, documents, and mantras have laid. We are one nation, one people, who are indivisible. Liberties and justice for all.