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Unraveling the Threads of Equality and Inequality in American History

Equality and inequality have been one of the most debatable issues in American history. Although the USA is a democratic country that lauds constitutional freedom, most citizens still have doubts concerning their social status and whether they are equal. Social equality is the most valuable advantage of contemporaneity. However, this social standard was a cause of different social disorders, wars, and resistance. The citizens of the USA were involved in different forms of the fight for equality. In other words, the national history of the United States is a tale about the struggle for equality. People strived for racial, gender, and minority equality. That period started when Americans attained their freedom from Great Britain. Thus, the problem of equality and inequality is not new in Northern America since the USA was the place of a new life for millions of people who intended to be different but equal in a country that exemplified democracy. Modern American equality is associated with progress and development as American society experienced different stages of the struggle for equality, including slavery, the Civil War, Native American wars, and other social rights movements, which improved the social status of the citizens and legal institutions. Under the auspices of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the country managed to stabilize the segregation between different groups and to promote equality.

Adopting the Declaration of Independence was the starting point in the fight for equality in America. However, some groups still do not have the same rights as the other citizens of the new land. African Americans, women, Chinese emigrants, Latin Americans, Native tribes and many others continue to fight for equal rights, freedom, education, medical assistance, voting right, and social equality. The Declaration of Independence declares equality due to the origin of mankind. It states that all people are created equal because the Creator defined that all citizens have the same rights. The Declaration of Independence references equal rights as the inherent natural right, which the government must support and confirm legally. Inequality is a destructive and anarchic process for the state, leading to discrimination, despotism, and tyranny. The Declaration of Independence aims to increase national security and protect national interests from oppression and social disorders. Additionally, the Declaration pays much attention to the issue of inequality in the judicial system. Initially, the Declaration had a communal character as the document’s creators did not focus on the state symbols or the highest authority but considered all the citizens. Thus, the Declaration of Independence was the first step toward equality in the USA and opened new perspectives for forming constitutional order.

The Constitution of the United States was created to protect the citizens from inequality and all its forms. The Constitution’s first ten Amendments became the Bill of Rights. They were presented as a single unit of a legislative guarantee, reinforcing equal rights. It also limited the rights of governments, both state and federal. It was the second essential element for social equality development in the United States. The Bill of Rights was based on the background of the British Magna Carta as a primary source of social rights and freedoms. The Bill of Rights formulated the concept of equality among citizens regarded as free people. In other words, the document protected the individual rights of people. The Bill of Rights defended the freedoms of the citizens to speak any language and to have any religion. Therefore, anyone who arrived in America and officially lived in the state had equal rights despite language and religious differences. According to the Bill of Rights, equality represented social and legal freedoms, meaning that the legal institutions had no right to search or issue a warrant without the reasons. Thus, equality was protected by the judicial system and government. Therefore, the Bill of Rights respected the rights of the citizens and recognized equality. At present, the Bill of Rights is an important element of the constitutional freedoms of American citizens. Society should feel protected from any kind of abuse, including social, criminal and governmental. It confirms the equality of all the people.

Nevertheless, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence can be controversial since they do not specify the issue of inequality concerning the rights of Native Americans and African Americans.

The fight of Native Americans for their equality was long and painful. Despite constitutional protection, the tribes did not have equal rights. On the contrary, they experienced discrimination and marginalization. Native Americans suffered from different forms of discrimination resulting in wars, forced social displacement, and restrictions. Despite the legal equality of people in the USA, the Declaration and the Constitution excluded the rights of the tribes since they were not regarded as free American people but rather as rough Indian savages. In other words, the documents had power but were not applied to the tribes. Therefore, all the attempts to make the country free and independent with social equality failed since the US Government did not recognize the tribes as equal to the colonists. It is a well-known fact that the most advantageous and rich lands for the colonists were colonized immediately, leading to the enslavement of Native Americans. Since the Native Americans lived on highly fertile land, the issue of equality gained economic and political perspectives. The exploitation of land launched a period of fundamental discrimination and marginalization of the Native society, which was treated as an enemy. They were forced to live in separate territories, isolated from others. The children had to visit separate schools in reservations. The colonists developed a traditional stereotypic system in that the lives of the Indians were unnecessary for the state. People thought that killing an Indian meant saving the life of a white man. Therefore, equality was only a myth hidden under the constitutional freedoms and the rights stated in the Declaration of Independence. Equality was solely a formality. In reality, millions of discriminated people were suffering, committing suicide, and turning into alcoholics. Aside from Native Americans, African Americans also suffered from inequality.

Slavery was a form of inequality and economic advantage for America, which the Constitution did not prohibit. The Massachusetts Historical Society confirmed that slavery was social and political pressure aimed to increase profit with the help of cheap working power. Nevertheless, it hindered the global progress of the USA as a democratic and independent federal country. Slavery was a serious challenge between Southern and Northern states. Therefore, the resistance of two opposing political powers provoked the Civil War, an example of misbalance in the society where equality was a key issue of the armed conflict. Therefore, the pressure between Southern and Northern states remained even after the war. The issue of inequality is still strong in some regions of the country as it is rooted in the historical misbalance between the Confederacy and the Union.

The misbalance of equality and inequality developed segregation. The segregation meant that African Americans could not participate in the social life with the whites. In other words, it was a discriminative separation of African Americans from other citizens. The segregation was humiliating and symbolized the violation of human rights protected by the Constitution. It had a wide destructive effect. The citizens of the Southern States refused to be equal with African Americans. However, the desire to protect equality ignited a massive movement for equality. African American representatives and leaders had an aggressive and radical form of disobedience. For example, Malcolm X intended to protect and recognize racial equality and his Muslim religion, as he had the right to protect them according to the Bill of Rights. It was the period when America faced the threat of the second civil war. The citizens of the Southern regions refused to visit the same educational establishments and other places where African Americans were. The social movements did not lead to military disorder, but the radicals were arrested, and some of them were even killed, including Malcolm X. In their turn, those leaders were substituted by peaceful leaders such as Martin Luther King. Many years after the social resistance, social, financial, and educational gaps formed the stereotypes. Thus, the standardization of social opinion made African Americans the enemies of democratic order as they were considered uneducated criminals from poor regions.

The effect of slavery and inequality is strong today in the USA. Slavery continues to influence the economy, social order, and political understanding. The previously enslaved regions of America experienced an unstable situation since poverty, poor education, and weak health care assistance prevailed in the African-American community. Considering such disorders, it is necessary to admit that inequality still exists in the United States even though the Constitution protects the rights of all citizens and their ability to have decent conditions of life. Nevertheless, because of their financial complications, most African Americans from poor regions cannot use this possibility of health care and enjoy the legal right to have an attorney for equal protection. That problem received close attention from the first African American President, Barak Obama. He made legal changes, giving less privileged citizens the chance to have free medical insurance.

Thus, the problem of equality and inequality and equality is acute in the USA because it originated in the past. Equality is a strong factor of a free democratic society, defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. However, those documents did not have sufficient actual power initially, and the members of American society were treated unequally. The problem of equality and inequality resulted from the region’s historical development, which different people from various backgrounds colonized. They oppressed and discriminated against other peoples, particularly Native Americans and African Americans. Inequality was a serious challenge to economic and political progress. Eventually, society resisted and started the struggle for equality.

📎 References:

1. Bartlett, D. W, and Abraham Lincoln. “Speech of Mr. Lincoln.” In The Life and Public Services of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, 306-325. New York: H. Dayton, 1860.
2. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846.
3. The US National Archives and Records Administration. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.” 1776.
4. The US National Archives and Records Administration. “The Bill Of Rights: A Transcription.” 1789.
5. Thwaites, Reuben Gold. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. Cleveland: Burrows, 1899.

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