When Francis Scott Key penned his famous poem The Star Spangled Banner, he referred to the United States to be the land of the free (Key 1814).  While he may have viewed the country to be as such when he composed his poem, which eventually became the lyrics of the National Anthem of the United States, history would clearly show that the truth was actually far from it.  More than a century after this poem was written, African Americans living in the United States were bounded by discrimination and racial prejudice, preventing them to gain any access to some of the most basic rights that their White American counterparts enjoyed.

    Discrimination and racial prejudice had been a long standing problem faced by African Americans for many decades.  While reading through the entire chapter, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer horror that African Americans faced through the decades all because of the color of their skin.  Young men who were not even old enough to drive have been victims of harsh and cruel methods of punishment and the supposed carrying out of justice.  The account on the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 on the grounds that she refused to give up her seat in the bus for a white man (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008) was just equally shocking and appalling.  Had she been a white woman, it is most likely that the man would not even bother to request her to give up her seat in the first place.  For something as trivial as a matter of a seat in the bus to be sufficient cause to warrant an arrest clearly depicted the gravity and severity of the discrimination and racial prejudiced experienced by men and women of all ages simply by the color of their skin. 

    In an effort to live up to the words heralded in both the Constitution of the United States and its National Anthem, the government passed the Civil Rights Act in 1957 (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008).  The passing of this law was done in the hopes of giving African Americans equal rights, opportunities and privileges that White Americans have been enjoying.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the case, as it was clearly seen in the accounts provided in the chapter.  Discrimination and prejudice continued to be rampant throughout the United States against African Americans so much so that the Civil Rights Act had to be amended and passed again in 1964 (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008).  Again, the passing of this act was unsuccessful in ensuring that African Americans are viewed and regarded by their White American counterparts as their equals. 

    According to the readings, there were three reasons as to why despite the fact that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1957 and amended in 1964, African Americans were still not free from the bondage of racial discrimination and prejudice.  Out of the three reasons mentioned, the one that stood out for me was the inadequacy of state enforcement systems (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008, p. 20).  It takes more than a bill or an act to be passed through Congress for it to become effective and serve its purpose.  Unless the law enforcement systems of the country would not do anything to enforce this to ensure that the provision specified in the bill is observed, the bill will be useless.  Looking through the different accounts presented in the reading, it can be seen that local law enforcement officials were directly or indirectly responsible for the prevalence of racial discrimination and prejudice among African Americans.  In fact, it was mentioned in the readings that if Blacks solely relied on the established local institutions for redress of grievances, there was little likelihood of success (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008, p. 19).  Clearly, the African Americans were in a no-win situation.  By going through the legal procedures, the chances that their concerns would be addressed were slim to none.  On the other hand, by practicing their right to free speech as well as the right to assemble in a peaceful manner as stated in the First Amendment of the Constitution (National Constitution Center NCC 2010), African Americans had to face the possibility of the otherwise peaceful assembly to turn into a riot brought about by law enforcement officials who attempt to break off the assembly and arrest.

    While African Americans have, indeed, been the victims of racial prejudice and discrimination, this is not to say that they did not also have their own share of prejudice and discrimination towards White Americans.  Perversion of the concept of Black Power  promotion of the equal treatment to African Americans without the compromise of their own cultural heritage and identity  in the recent years has also led to a number of different African American groups causing terror and acts of violence towards White Americans for the sole reasons that they are white.  One particular example mentioned in this reading was the account regarding Malcolm X who, in one of his teachings, referred to the White Americans as the devil (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008, p. 25).  This form of indoctrination and other similar teachings regarding White Americans may account for the over 300 different riots instigated by African Americans in the United States between the years 1935 and 1968 (Toth, Crew  Burton 2008).

    Although African Americans and other minority groups residing in the United States today experience much more equality and freedom as compared to the previous decades, there are still instances where traces of this can still be observed in different facets of society.  The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are entitled to be protected by the law.  The presence of racial discrimination and prejudice is a clear violation of this amendment (NCC 2010, Toth, Crew  Burton 2008).  The presence of prejudice and racial discrimination may never be completely eradicated.  Nevertheless, one must ensure that equality should be practiced at all times towards a particular individual regardless of race and ethnical background.


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