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Power and Privilege Exclusion by Race - Essay Example

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The history of the United States is replete with the exercise of power by those who were privileged against those who were not.1 There is likely not a more obvious instance of this that that in the area of racial relations. Sadly, the law of the land has been an effective tool in the efforts of the powerful to keep those of different races underprivileged…
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Download file to see previous pages There is no doubt that the law has been used to further discrimination against racial minorities.
The law as a political instrument. In a case called City of Memphis v. Greene, 451 U.S. 100, 123,126-27 (1981), the attempt to use the law as an agent of political discrimination is obvious. A white neighborhood association did not want the members of a black neighborhood to drive through their residential area. The City of Memphis, bowing under the pressure of the whites, passed an ordinance that closed the most convenient street giving access to the center of the city. In what can only be described as a wrong-headed decision, the Supreme Court sided with the residents in the name of "residential tranquility." A more classic use of the law as a political instrument could hardly be constructed. The in-power whites did not want the blacks to drive their streets; evidencing pure racism. Their ability to convince the city to close the street and exclude the black community from conveniently driving to the city center demonstrates a regional disregard for those citizens; and the Supreme Court's action took that disregard to a national level. Imagine, if you were a black resident of Memphis at the time, how disenfranchised you would feel. The city, as well as the nation, is telling you to drive out of your way just to preserve the tranquility of white racists. This is not the use of law, it is the abuse of law to further the agenda of the powerful and keep the out-class down.
Justice and fairness. Similar to the case above, and a decision which flies in the face of the notion of fairness, the matter of Hernandez v. New York, 111 S. Ct. 1859 (1991), comes to the fore. In this instance, a prosecutor sought to exclude the plaintiff from sitting on a jury simply as a result of Hispanic ancestry. The claim was made that individual Latinos might have difficulty in understanding written documents submitted during the course of the trial, and should not be allowed to sit as jurors. The implication of this assumption is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. While the Supreme Court sided with the prosecution for technical reasons, the racism implied in the very act is clearly apparent; and its extension as a precedent speaks volumes regarding the political use of power and the law. In fact, it should be noted that "[w]here a rule has such a massively disproportionate impact, it is tempting to equate the impact, exclusion of Latinos, with an intent to exclude that group" (Friedman and Israel 1745). While the prosecutor in the case may not have intentionally meant to discriminate against an entire class of people, the notion that Hispanics cannot sit on American juries because they may not speak the language well enough is an ugly message to send. Imagine living in the U.S. as a third-generation Latina and being told that you were unfit for jury duty because you were sub-literate. The point you would get was that you were incapable of participating in the legal system because you were inferior as a result of your race. This is neither just nor fair. Once again, the powerful have designed and are perpetuating the institutionalized structure of excluding any one not resembling the people of privilege. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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