The United States is a nation of great ethnic diversity and it is seen as a ‘melting pot’ of races, culture, languages and religions. As a result US politics has come to incorporate the combination of different people in American society. There are many controversies surrounding race in US politics, including the notion of Affirmative Action.
The US political scene was in the twentieth century surrounded by issues of racial equality and saw the emergence of powerful leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the introduction of powerful pressure groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality and the Nation Of Islam.Politics in the USA first began to integrate race and diversity into its policies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation a gradual change came about that determined equality in politics. The nineteenth century had seen attempts to use the Constitution to guarantee rights and representation for racial minorities. It can be argued that the Civil Rights Act (1866) was the first time in US political history that race was the subject of the government policy. Through the 14th and 15th Amendments the US constitution sought to protect the liberties or civil rights of minorities.Following what seemed to be a success for minority groups over 100 years of a struggle for racial equality dominated US politics.
The programme dubbed as Affirmative Action was seen a positive step towards equality for minorities by supposedly undoing the cruelty that was faced by many black-Americans during and after the abolishment of slavery. It entailed giving members of a previously disadvantaged community a head start in such areas as higher education and employment. This policy is still active in US society and is now required by law for all federal government agencies and for those organisations that receive federal funds.
Affirmative Action shadows the US political scope as it is seen as a highly controversial programme. Many believe that enough has been done to right the wrongs of the past and if this programme should continue it will result in non-minority groups being discriminated against. The Supreme Court has, since the 1950s, been at the centre of attempts to protect the rights of racial minorities.
Many of the early cases focused on the rights of black-Americans, but as US society became increasingly diverse, cases relating to other racial minorities have been heard too. The Brown v.Board of Education of Topeka was the first and therefore most significant decision on civil rights by the Supreme Court. In this case, the Court ruled that a law of the state of Kansas was unconstitutional because it contravened the ‘equal protection’ clause of the 14th Amendment. The years that followed heard many more cases regarding civil rights of racial minorities and so the impact on this branch has been greater and more obvious. To conclude, race and ethnic diversity has had a significant impact on US politics since the Emancipation Proclamation in the 19th century.
The government introduced many laws (Acts) to determine the civil rights of non-whites. These include; the Civil Rights Act (1866) and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The programme known as Affirmative Action or positive discrimination is the most recent example of the effect of race in US politics. As it is a highly controversial programme it has gained wide publicity.
In addition the Supreme Court has heard many cases over the years regarding the issue of race and civil rights which only reinforces the concept of race dominating politics in America.