Plessy V Fergusson Essay, Research Paper
The moment the first slave was brought to America a ball was set in motion
that one day somewhere and somehow a distinction between races had to be dealt
with. The Civil War helped to make a stand against enslavement. A few years
later in Plessy v. Ferguson another step was taken to give blacks equal but
separate treatment and access to public facilities. After taking a giant leap
into the future, fifty-eight years, we have another landmark case. In Brown v.
Board of Education, the separate but equal law was revised to bring the races
together in the same public facilities with access to the same public resources.
The decision of Brown released congress from the restraints that they had
been under with the previous decisions made by the Supreme Court. Congress was
now able to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited discrimination on
the basis of race. Quotas were instituted to minimize the discrimination that
had been taking place. With quotas comes reverse discrimination. In Bakke v.
Regents of the University of California came the dismissal of quotas in schools.
Bakke challenged the University for letting black students into school with
lower qualifications. Quotas are an unfortunate necessity to help incorporate
blacks into the mainstream workforce.
The decisions in Plessy and Brown are similar because of how the decisions
affect the group instead of the individuals. The Court is continually ruling in
regard to race instead of the individual. If the Constitution is truly color
blind, then we would not have these distinctions between classes when the
rulings are made. Each ruling by the Court should be done on an individual basis
and by the merits of that particular individual instead of the color of ones
skin. The only reason the court rules in favor of Brown is because the
implications go beyond just the individual affected, the ruling will affect the
entire black race. The effects of the Brown case go a lot further than the
During the sixties the civil rights movement encouraged the Civil Rights Act
of 1964. This Act was already in the works due to the decision in Brown. Brown
released the flood gates which held back blacks from equal opportunities. Before
this decision blacks were in a psychological caste system. Even though they had
the ?same opportunities? as whites the mere fact that they were forced into
separate quarters only thirty years after the release of their enslavement made
them feel as if they were in a lower class. A lot of people say that if the
blacks feel that way, then that is their own fault. The same people forget that
the Constitution is color blind and would not understand why we have to have
separate quarters in the first place.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, case after case was brought before
different courts throughout the land to test the limits of the law. In 1972,
Moose Lodge No.107 v. Irvis was brought before the Supreme Court. Irvis felt
that he should be allowed to join a private club because the liquor licence was
in limited supply in the city based on per capita, and the licence is supplied
by the state. The government can not sanction racism and, according to Irvis,
would be doing so by issuing a liquor licence to Moose Lodge No. 107. The right
of a private club to choose its own members is one of the main reasons behind
having a private club to begin with. To allow the government to invade the
private sectors through an insignificant means was denied and the Supreme Court
put their foot down and set some boundaries for civil rights activists.
Again in 1984 in Palmore v. Sidoti, we have a case where the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 will attempt to set some boundaries with bi-racial relationships and the
placement of kids affected in the process. The welfare of the child has always
been the courts number one priority when kids are involved. When Linda Sidoti
moved in with a Negro, Anthony Sidoti sought custody of their child based on the
child?s best interest. The question that was brought before the Supreme Court
was if the child living with a Negro might inflict private biases from the child?s
peers. This is one of the few cases that the child?s best interest is not what
the Court was considering. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, government is
to do away with classifying people according to their race. If we classify
someone according to their race it will do more harm in the long and short run
than the private biases the child in question will inflict.
Both of these cases have followed suit to Plessy and Brown in the fact that
even though it seems that the rulings are having a direct effect on the people
involved in the case, each case is addressing an entire group of people and
establishes standards and boundaries.
In Bakke v Regents of the University of California, we have a landmark
reverse discrimination case that influenced education as a whole. Bakke was
rejected from graduate school even though he had superior scores than many of
the African-American applicants who were admitted. Bakke challenged the
University of California and overturned the quota system that had been
established in public universities across the nation. The University of
California held on to the belief that black people should have access to black
doctors. However, if the University were to go on a sole merit system then the
number of special admittees would diminish along with the aforementioned belief.
This belief was quickly altered by the Supreme Court with their decision against
The Court?s understand group rights and they address the individual rights
through these group rights. Unfortunately the Supreme Court feels a necessity to
answer individual questions by addressing entire groups. Everybody has needs and
wants however, it is almost impossible to take each individual and create
different criteria for them because the situation is a little different then
situations that preceded it. Brown was addressed to a group to answer questions
to a whole nation. Each case is the same in that every outcome has addressed an
audience that fits the general mold that has been created in that particular
case. The opinion of the Supreme Court has established an outline that serves as
a guideline for lower courts. The opinion is recognized as the law of the land.
That is the reason that the opinion of the Court must be directed towards a
group when deciding a case. The case will be referred upon as actual law and
must fit a broad group of people.
When Brown was decided Pandora?s Box was opened. Many trials have taken
place that would not have if that case had been decided differently. With Plessy
the opinion of the Court was very clear, you could almost say it was black and
white. After Brown was decided, many questions were yet to be answered. Many
random questions about the limits of the opinion were going to be exasperated.
With every decision by the Supreme Court, Pandora?s box begins to close a
little more each time.