The Meaning Of Equality In America
Since the United States was established in 1776, equality has been one of the founding principles of America; a symbol of hope, freedom and a chance of a fair life as well as many of the opportunities that we Americans expect. Now more than ever we have come to the point where we have been able to formulated equality and use this to draw upon when envisioning a better society. Though as a whole we have created a gap between aspiration and reality when it comes to this though; to use a simple formula to describe a highly flexible subject can be seen as an unequal principle. But now more than ever as a country we can see all the opportunities of equality that we have been privileged with.
The concept of equality of opportunity as explained by philosopher Peter Westen can be shown in a “three-way relationship between a person, some obstacles, and a desired goal. ” This statement can be described in an equation like form; where people have an opportunity to attain a specified goal with the hindrance of a similar obstacle. But in order for these opportunities to be truly equal, within a group of people, each member must face the same obstacles to achieve the same desired goal. Though this can be seen to others as an unequal situation, you must remember this is a highly flexible subject, in which everything differs in term of the people, challenges and the goals in which they specify. To use this in an example with the formula above; Every American should have the chance to attain a college degree without the hindrance of gender discrimination. Though this may be considered an expected or basic opportunity, it is still an opportunity nonetheless.
Educational opportunities are those that are aim to enable individuals to acquire knowledge and certain skills, and to cultivate certain capacities. To employ our formula of equality in the context of education, we need to answer questions about who our people are, what the appropriate goal or goals are, and what obstacles are legitimate to this. For example, if were to take the admission to a highly selective college as our goal, and the citizens of America as focus group, it would be in our best interest to believe that meeting a certain academic requirement, such as passing an entrance exam, would be an evident obstacle that should be permitted to stand as our goal. But this is one of the most controversial opportunities of equality in America. Though within our society we recognize that developing one’s pathway to knowledge is a central component of a flourishing life, but this development is not always seen as equal. It’s important to think about the distribution of educational opportunities in developed societies, in which the vast majority of these opportunities are provided and regulated by the state. With the state regulating this opportunity they cannot provide unequal benefits to children or adults on the basis of factors such as their race or gender. Our education systems cannot discriminate those who desire an education; everyone is given an equal platform in which to achieve their educational goals.
With the passage of the First Amendment in 1791, it states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech. ” Though we think of speech as a freedom it can also be seen as a form of equality. We don’t realize it but equality is given within the context of a more basic principle, freedom. Every citizen of the United States under the protection of the First Amendment is entitled to all the same direct and symbolic actions. Examples as given by the U. S. Supreme Court include; the right to not speak (specifically, the right to not salute the flag), to use certain offensive words or phrases to convey political messages, to contribute money to political campaigns, and to engage in symbolic speech (e. g. burning the flag in protest). This freedom of speech is protected by our state and local governments under the incorporation doctrine (which prevents government restrictions on speech). No matter how much the government would like to restrict our speech, we have all been given the same opportunities to speak and/or convey our thoughts and opinions.
Along with freedom of speech the First Amendment also states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. ” The freedom and equality of religion is extremely important for our nation to function and the notion of equality turns out to be something of a byproduct to the main purposes of the Constitution’s provisions on religion. Take, for example, the no religious test clause. The primary purpose of this provision was to end the mandate that religion is essential to holding public office. Hence, no person could be hindered from serving their country due to their religious beliefs. But there are dimensions of equality in this provision: all religions are treated equally in that none are privileged, and everyone is treated equally in a way that no one could be discriminated due to their religion. Democracies interpret freedom of religion as the right of each individual to freely choose to convert from one religion to another, to mix religions, or to abandon religion altogether. The U. S. government has guaranteed its citizens with equal opportunities of religious practices with the establishment of two clauses. The first being the “Establishment Clause,” which prohibits the federal government from establishing a national church or religion. Secondly the “Free Exercise Clause” which states that Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of religious practices. The laws of religious equality are determined either formally or functionally. Formally referring to where the government treats all subjects equally, while functionally refers to equal results or outcomes.
The phrase, ‘Equal justice under law’ has become a societal ideal that has influenced the U. S. legal system. Equality of Justice is based on the idea that everyone is entitled to the same specific treatment and/or resources through set standards of entitlement as defined by law. In the U. S. we have two types of equality in our judicial system; equal justice and equal protection of the law. Equal justice is simply defined as the fair, equal and impartial treatment to all people. While equal protection of the law is defined as the right of every citizen to have access to the court and to receive equal treatment. To back these two ideals we have the Equal Protection Clause, which as part of the Fourteenth Amendment, provided that no state shall deny any person without jurisdiction. Everyone in the U. S. is given a platform on which justice is given; everyone fairly gets all the same basic principles and treatment. Whether people expand upon those core equal opportunities or keep them as is, is where debates are set upon.
Racial Equality occurs when people of all races are given an equal opportunity; ignoring a person’s racial physical charactephysic and skin color. In the U. S. racial equality is given by law regardless of what race an individual is; they will receive equal treatment, opportunity, education, employment, and more. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments all provide equal opportunities to African-Americans, regarding anti-slavery, citizenship, and voting rights. Also the Civil Rights Act of 1866 grants citizenship to any individuals without discriminating or viewing race, color, or the previous act of being a slave. As a country we have gotten over our prejudices of color, and in turn have become a more equal society; we have looked pass our dissimilarities to unify our country. We live in a time were no matter what race you may be, you are still given the same equal rights as every other citizen.
American political culture contains a number of core ideals and values including; liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity, and diversity. With this we have political equality which can be defined as the means that everyone is treated in the same way in the political sphere; everyone has the same status under the law and everyone gets equal treatment under the law. In order for everyone to enjoy the same rights they must all obey the laws as set by our government, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This equality is meant to neither reducing people to the lowest level of mediocrity nor raising them to the highest level of superiority. Another crucial part of our political equality can be referred to as one of the bedrock principles in our democracy, which is the equal consideration of the preferences and interests of all citizens. This is expressed in such principles as one-person/one-vote, equality before the law, and equal rights of free speech. In our government unlike many from other nations, citizens have an equal voice over governmental decisions.
Though we may have a great array of equal opportunities there are still several arguments on how we as a nation are not in any way equal. One of the most major debate is with women’s equality; though women today are given more opportunities than what was originally given to them in 1776; women still fight to be equal to their male counter-parts. An example of this inequality is; in just about every state in the country, women are more likely than men to have a college degree, yet women have higher poverty rates and lower earnings than men. Gender equality is in a way like a mosaic, a picture that cannot be complete without understanding and exploring the dynamic regional, national and demographic factors at play. As a result, we cannot approach these issues without thoroughly peeling back and exploring each layer. It is necessary for all of us to reassess how we measure, monitor and evaluate the status of women so that we can effectively determine both the progress that has already been made toward achieving full gender equality. Today women have won the right to vote, and they make up a large proportion of the workplace. In one of President Barack Obama first acts in office in 2009, he signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination. Numerous steps have been taken in our national government as well, a total of 106 women hold seats in the Congress, comprising 19. 8% of the 535 members; 22 women (22%) serve in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19. 3%) serve in the House of Representatives. All these small steps are better our society in the long run, helping us achieve gender equality for once in the 241 years that the U. S. has been an independent nation.
The similar treatment of all people, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences is what equality means to America. Our government has created a basic platform of equality that we all begin with, creating laws, amendments, and clauses that all work together to create a more equal society. Whether its equality in term of education, speech, religion, justice, race, or politics, our society prides itself on each and every one. Though we do have subjects in which our equality can been seen as lacking, in this case within the context of gender equality, but after years of pressing fights we can now begin to see change emerging.
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