Tutor profile: Lyndsey C.
Subject: Political Science
What were some motivations behind the civil rights movements? Why did Americans begin paying attention?
As the highest tribunal in the United States, the Supreme Court has the power to affect the lives of every American citizen. The Court’s main duty is to address issues that arise between opposing interests, but often times, this is much more convoluted than the basic process that the Constitution set up for the court system. Balancing interests of conflicting parties results in the Court choosing its priorities and the precedents they want to set for the rest of the country. Some Supreme Court decisions have been criticized for interfering too much in the private lives of the citizens, but the laws that come out of the Court process are a reflection of the way American society is at the time. The justices of the 20th century court tried to avoid taking issues pertaining to race, but the education system, the government’s most important function, made government interference inevitable when dealing with desegregation and integration post-Civil War. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s sparked the conversation on the intersect between race and the education system. While Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 is the most well-known case to come out of this time period as it created the doctrine of “separate but equal,” numerous other cases contributed to the discussion on how to go about educating whites and blacks when the Supreme Court was upholding segregated schools (Hall 464). For instance, although Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond in 1899 did not directly deal with segregated education, the Court failed to intervene in a Georgia school district’s dismantling of a white high school even though the same public school did not exist for blacks in the district, thus separate of equal was not being abided by (Hall 464). Less than a decade later, the court dodged dealing with segregated schools when they allowed the state of Kentucky to prohibit integrated schools at a state-chartered private college in Bearea College v. Kentucky in 1908 (Hall 465). The most notable case besides the Plessy decision dealt with Mississippi’s constitution that said “separate schools shall be maintained for children of the white and colored races,” when Gong Lum’s daughter was turned away from a white public high school because she was colored, but there was not another school in the district that she could attend (Hall 465). Gong Lum v. Rice in 1927 pushed the Supreme Court to realize that states, like Mississippi, were not attempting to provide separate but equal schooling for colored students, and this encouraged the Court to pay more attention to the issue of school integration (Hall 465). When “equal” school segregation was failing nationwide, the Supreme Court was pressured by the public to take notice and get involved. Legalized racial discrimination was no longer going to work if the nation wanted to move forward, and case law was the only way to create change. In the beginning of the 1940s, the NAACP used their Legal Defense Fund to create a litigation strategy to challenge separate but equal, since cases like Sweatt v. Painter demonstrated that colored students were not receiving the same equal educational opportunities as white students (Hall 511). The South, especially, remained racially divided in the public realm which correlated to how the school systems looked. When the 1950’s rolled around, the NAACP decided to lay the groundwork for challenges to discrimination in public school systems under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, the Court’s first African-American justice (Hall 509 and Ringel). Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was a culmination of these social tensions that had been rising from the beginning of the century, where the plaintiff claimed segregated public schools were not equal and could not be made equal, violating the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment (Hall 511). The idea of separate but equal was to allow people of all backgrounds and colors to have equal access and equal opportunities, but this failed in implementation. The education of white children was in the hands of private groups, and the education of blacks was nonexistent (Brown). When the Court was being pressured to take on cases dealing with race, they had to choose between the private interest sphere and the rights of colored people in America, who were, and still remain as the minority. The main question in the Brown case dealt with whether the segregation of children in public schools based solely on race deprived children of educational opportunities. When the Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in 1954, the interests of the minorities won (Hall 512). The Plessy decision was not overturned, but the justices abolished the separate but equal doctrine in the education system (Brown). The Court recognized that it could no longer ignore the fact that facilities, especially school systems, were not equal for all races. Although the Court’s intentions were to protect the rights of African Americans, racially segregated housing patterns and resistance from communities led to the continuation of segregation into the late 1960s (Hall 512 and Ringel). The difficulty of achieving racial integration in public schools led to more challenges for federal judges to handle. The most controversial solution to tackle this issue was to bus the colored students into the white schools in order to integrate them, but this created a myriad of problems, especially for the colored children and their families. The busing also caused a lot of white families to start “fleeing” to suburban areas (Ringel). One example of the little progress in the desegregation process was found in the school system of Charlotte-Mecklenberg, North Carolina where 14,000 black students attended schools made up entirely of black students (Swann). While lower courts tried to come up with solutions, the case reached the Supreme Court when the lower courts could not figure it out. In April of 1971, the Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education that busing was the only way to fulfill constitutional requirement of desegregation as ruled in Brown, but this was not the main question that the Court had to answer in the case (Swann). Instead, the Court was to decipher whether federal courts had the authority to “fashion remedies that will assure unitary school systems…the scope of a district court’s equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies” (Swann). The strategy of busing was vital to the quick integration of public schools, and would supposedly ensure that all students would receive equal opportunities in their education regardless of the color of their skin (Swann). The transportation of colored students into primarily white schools was criticized heavily by both white and black parents, but the Court’s ruling in favor of the minority’s interest in Swann required the bussed children to endure horrendously long commutes to and from school every day (Ringel). In 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that federal judges could not order busing across school district lines without unusual circumstances. For Detroit, in the case of Milliken v. Bradley, this meant that the busing remedy would only be in urban school districts that had high concentrations of colored children, while the white suburban school districts were not affected (Hall 515). The question of racial diversity as a compelling interest did not stop in the 20th century. Just less than a decade ago, the case of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 involved race and the selection of students being admitted to public high schools. The Court applied the framework of strict scrutiny, much like they did in Grutter v. Bollinger just a few years earlier, to say that under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, the school district’s plan was unconstitutional (Seattle). The court acknowledged that they had said racial diversity could be a “compelling government interest” in the past and in the admission of students to universities, but that Seattle did not have segregated schools by law and therefore the district’s plan aimed towards demographics, not educational benefits (Seattle). Justice Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion emphasizing that public schools could consider race but only to for educational benefits (Seattle). The judicial struggle to maintain the balance between the rights of African-Americans and school district’s shows that the relationship between race and law will continue to pose an issue until full integration is reached. Despite the tremendous efforts to foster greater racial balance in the public realm and in education, de facto segregation still persists. While the number of interracial has increased since 1954, schools around the nation remain predominantly one-race since education is still divided, and residential housing patterns play a role in this process of integration. Over the past century, the courts have avoided ruling in favor of isolation based on color, but this then takes away from the other interests that the court must balance. The idea of a “compelling state interest” will continue to be balanced against individuals’ constitutional rights, particularly in the realm of equal rights for all citizens regardless of demographics.
Why is it important to be aware of different types of voices in professional writing?
Rhetoric and style are essential in different types of writing, especially in a professional setting. In this day and age, it is very easy to be too caught up in the everyday use of improper language and slang, but when communicating with professionals, including professors, bosses, etc, the type of language and syntax used can affect how one perceives the text. The use of different voices is important to pay attention to, especially with professional writing. For example, an essay for a classroom assignment should not employ the use of first person unless specifically stated by the teacher or professor.
What is in place to ensure that any one branch of the United States government does not become too powerful?
The separation of powers, which creates an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch is kept in order through a process of checks and balances as stated by the U.S. Constitution. Each branch retains certain responsibilities. The executive branch is tasked with exercising executive power as it pertains to the President and his Cabinet, while the legislative branch exercises the right to create and enact legislation through congressional power, providing a "check" on the executive branch. The judicial branch has the power of judicial review, where they are able to "check" the legislative branch to ensure that no laws or actions are unconstitutional.
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