Equality in America
Although the Constitution only discusses equality in terms of equal protection (14th Amendment), American history has demonstrated that “a belief in equal rights has often led to the belief in equality of opportunity.” For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 enforced an equal right to vote and created an equal right to use schools and other public accommodations. Until that point, there was a severe disparity between the facilities available to African-Americans and those available to whites. One of the goals of the Civil Rights Act was to give all people equal access to public resources. However, “American society does not emphasize equal results or equal rewards.” Even now, we as African American students are overrepresented in the world’s worst public schools and underrepresented in the best. The doctrine of separate but equal lives on in our institutions, despite the fact that it was formally overturned over 60 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education. While there is a legal right to equal academic opportunity, that right has not translated into an actually equal education. Nor does the issue of equal rewards dominate the American political consciousness. The equal “right” of women to work, for example, has not translated into the right to earn the same salaries as men. It is only recently, with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, that there has been political acknowledgement of the disparity between the right to work and the opportunity to receive equal pay for equal work. The battle for equal rights has been long and hard fought. The United States has made great progress in a fairly brief period of time. Without equal opportunities, results, or rewards, however, it is clear that we still have a ways to go.
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