This topic is geared towards the issue of racial discrimination. As a basis for the discussion, this topic will present a case of discrimination against Negro citizens and their right to vote. This case will show the conflicting roles which the different aspects of the government play in order to display an attempt to address this social problem. At the same time, this topic will show how the government can have no control over the forces within the society that have a far greater influence on the perspective of human beings.
On the other hand, this topic will also show how the government can lose control due to forces within the society that have a greater influence on the perspective of human beings. These forces will be explained further and will manifest their role in the presented case to show how human beings can destroy the safeguards created by the government to counter discrimination.
2. Sociological Approach:(Structural Functionalist, Social Conflict, Symbolic Interaction)
The material may be related to the Social Conflict theory. This is a theory that claims that people within a society vary on the amount of resources available to them, and the people with more resources are, by consequence, more powerful. These people use their power and available resources to exploit the people with less power.
In the case of U.S. vs. Alabama et. al., the Board of Registrars and the District Court were the parties in power. The available resource the Board of Registrar had was in the form of political power which they intended to monopolize by not allowing the negro citizens a voice in the decision making process. The District Court had the resource of legal knowledge which it used to make an oppressive decision in favor of the Board of Registrars. The Negro citizens, so long as they were being denied of their power to vote, were also being denied of their opportunity to be represented so they can voice their grievances and uplift their standing in the society.
The Symbolic Interaction theory may also be applicable to the material. This is a theory that claims that people deal with circumstances, people and other things depending on how much value these things have for them. These values are determined by interactions within the society and altered by individual interpretation.
This theory can be applied to the way the District Court made its decision and how it interpreted the Civil Rights Act of 1957. If the District Court had allowed the declaratory and injunctive relief, this would mean the Board of Registrars could no longer continue their discriminatory activities. This might affect the very culture of Macon County where the Negro citizens right to vote was not the only problem. In the case of Lee vs. Macon County Board of Education (267 F. Supp 458,470-M.D. Ala 1967), there was another racial discrimination issue – segregation.
Perhaps the District Court decided the way it did, and ignored the amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, in order to avoid wreaking havoc within a highly racist community.
But what caused the prejudice within the Macon, Alabama county? In the absence of any details of what the Board of Registrars did and the effects of their actions, I will have to play safe and resort to the Culture Theory of Prejudice. This is the theory that claims that everyone is prejudiced because it is part of how we were raised. An example of this is when parents tell their children they need to marry someone of the same race. With regard to the norms within Macon county, I have sited another case on top of the material discussed here as a means of showing the norms. Discrimination was practiced and accepted, and the children growing up in that environment grow up believing that discrimination is right. The Board of Registrars and, probably even the district court, may have been composed of people who were born and raised in the same environment. Given that discrimination may be embedded in their system, it will take more than a legal amendment to change their ways.
This case was filed by the United States for practices that deprived Negro citizens of their voting rights. The United States prayed for declaratory and injunctive relief from the 5th District Court with the Board of Registrars of an Alabama county (Macon) as defendants. The district court denied the petition on the following grounds:
1. The individual respondents were sued as Registrars. They resigned from their offices and could no longer be sued in their official capacities;
2. The Board of Registrars could not be sued;
3. The action was not authorized by the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
The decision was affirmed by the Appeals court and paved the way for a petition for certiorari.
The central argument for this case is based on the amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which authorized actions against the state? The Supreme Court ruled that the District Court had authority to hear the case by virtue of the amendment, and that such amendment had already taken effect before the case reached the Supreme Court.
I think the decision of the Supreme Court appears discriminatory since it will compel the state to defend it’s efforts to stop discrimination. But, from a legal standpoint, what the Supreme Court merely did was acknowledge the right of the public to question actions effected by the state. This is a necessary safeguard for democracy to thrive. Unfortunately, what was being questioned was an action for a good cause – to stop the proliferation of racial discrimination.
The above ruling implies that the government may be subjected to legal attacks even when it is making an effort to stand up for the rights of it’s citizens who they suspect are being oppressed by the majority. The more positive implication with the Supreme Court ruling is that the state is not infallible and the decisions made by the people in it’s government mat be questioned.
The option to question the state is still relevant today. The government is composed of mere mortals who have made mistakes in the past and will most likely continue to make mistakes in the future. It should be comforting to the society to know that they can demand for the correction of these mistakes rather than simply surrender to the decisions of a higher power even when such decisions are detrimental to their interests.
However, the right to vote has long become moot and academic, at least in the New World. This is a right that is already widely granted to citizens regardless of their race. If there is any discrimination issue that surrounds voting and elections, it may be the amount of confidence that people will put on a candidate who belongs to a minority, and if people vote for candidates simply because they are white even when there is a more promising candidate of color.
This topic centered on the social implications of discrimination. The case zeroes in on the right to vote among Negro citizens as an example of racial discrimination. This case showed the intent of the government to ease the discrimination. The case also showed the legal impediments that stand in the way of the government in it’s attempt to make sure that all it’s citizens are given equal rights.
But this topic also showed that discrimination stems from the attitude of human beings, which in turn is developed by their different experiences within the society. The negativity in their attitude may be aggravated by their social standing and the resources that are available to them. These are factors that the government cannot control without also controlling the amount of freedom that their citizens are entitled to.