Race, Ethnicity and Criminal Justice
The timelines presented in this project highlight the events that have shaped race and ethnicity in the US since the 1800s.
28 May 1830: Indian Removal Act
President Jackson signed the Act allowing the government to divide the land in the west of Mississippi amongst Indians who had lost land to settlers. The law affected both Indians and natives who had settled in the land (Smith 13). Natives living on the land had to move to create space for Indians. The Indians suffered due to the law as they had to move long distances to relocate to their new homes.
31 January 1965: 13th Amendment
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the US making African Americans a free population. The Senate and the House of Representatives had passed the Amendment earlier before forwarding their resolution to the president (Carter 1313). President Abraham Lincoln approved the Amendment on 31 January 1865.
18 May 1896: Plessy vs. Ferguson Case
The case affected African Americans. Judges ruled that it was constitutional for states to make laws that segregated African Americans from the whites. Based on this decision, whites had the legal foundation to assert ideas promoting white supremacy against other races in the US (Carter 1317). It also allowed law enforcement agencies to take action against African Americans who sought preserved services.
17 May 1954: Brown vs. Board of Education
In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court used the case to end racial segregation in schools. The court ruled that state laws that established racial segregation in schools were unconstitutional (Van 17). A subsequent case saw the court ask states to hasten the desegregation exercise.
1 December 1955: Montgomery Bus Boycott
The bus boycott marked the beginning of the revolt against racial segregation and the skewed justice system in the US. Rosa Parks, a woman of African American decent, was the face of the boycott as she declined to give her seat to a white person as the law required. After her arrest, African Americans boycotted bus transport in the Montgomery city (Hawley et al. 157). The following year, the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in the transport services was unconstitutional allowing buses to implement first-come-first-served policy.
2 July 1964: The Civil Rights Act
The enactment of the Civil Rights Act enforced voting and labor rights for African Americans. The law outlawed discrimination based on national origin, sex, race, color, and race. It also outlawed racial segregation in schools and public accommodations (Hawley et al. 159). The act strengthened other laws that aimed at enhancing equality of all races in the US.
22 April 1987: McCleskey vs. Kemp
In the above case, the US Supreme Court upheld the death penalty that Georgia’s appeals court had awarded Warren McCleskey for being involved in armed robbery. The suspect had argued that his death penalty served a racially discriminatory purpose as other people convicted of a similar crime did not attract such a sentence (Lopez 1026). However, the court ruled that the suspect did not prove that the penalty had a racially disproportionate impact on him.
14 July 2015: Obama's Address to NAACP
In his address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), President Obama made claims that demonstrated the influence of race in the criminal justice system in the US. He claimed that a most of prisoners in the US are either African Americans or Latino’s (“Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference.” par. 10). These claims brought debates on the need to reform the criminal justice system in the US.
The above events reveal how racial relationships in the US have evolved. With the occurrence of each of the above events, racial and ethnic relationships have changed in the US. The events are a fraction of the historical occurrences that have defined racial and ethnic relations in the US.
“Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference.” The White House, 14 January 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/14/remarks-president-naacp-conference. Accessed 14 May 2019.
Carter Jr., William M. "Race, rights, and the thirteenth amendment: Defining the badges and incidents of slavery." University of California Davis Law Review, vol. 40, 2006, pp. 1311-1379.
Gabbidon, Shaun L., and Greene, Taylor. Race and crime. Sage Publications, 2018.
Hawley, Todd S., Andrew, Hostetler S., and Chandler, Prentice T. "Teaching the Montgomery bus boycott as citizen action for racial and economic justice." Race Lessons: Using Inquiry to Teach About Race in Social Studies, edited by Chandler, Prentice T., and Hawley, Todd S., Information Age Publishing, 2017, 155-170.
López, Ian F. "Post-racial racism: Racial stratification and mass incarceration in the age of Obama." California Law Review, vol. 98, no. 3, 2010, pp. 1023-1074.
Smith, Jacob. "The 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek: Native Decision Making in the Creation of an Indian Removal Treaty." 2018.
Van Delinder, Jean. Struggles before Brown: Early civil rights protests and their significance today. Routledge, 2015.