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“All Men Are Created Equal”: Declaration Review Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 3rd, 2022

Introduction

“All men are created equal” is perhaps the best-known statement in a political document in the history of America. This statement made by Thomas Jefferson in the declaration of independence is today a subject of heated debates as it is arguably full of irony. Several times in American history after the declaration of independence, different cultures have been built on completely opposite foundations rather than that of equality. This statement has therefore attracted several heated debates in the face of major discrimination cases in America such as slavery, racial discrimination, homosexual debates among many other fights by minority groups seeking equal rights. Many times people are discriminated against on the basis of political differences, status, sexual preference, gender and perhaps the most common is racial and ethnic differences.

America has indeed come far in search of democracy and equality. The American revolution in the last half of the 18th century was supposed to bring hope and a future for the country where everyone would live freely. Breaking free from the British Empire and rejecting the British authority gave way for a chance to create a self-governing states. This period called for political, social and intellectual transformations in the country. “The result was a representative government which was supposed to be responsible for the will of every person without discriminating”1. American Enlightenment, one of the ideas behind this period was a fight for democracy, religious tolerance and liberalism among others.

British legislation which ensured that Americans did not have any representation in government catalyzed the birth of American revolution. The policies were designed to strictly benefit the British country economically. American merchants for example were restricted from trading with the big empires which included the Spanish and French empires. There were proclamations which restricted settlements in certain areas and so most Americans would not move as easily as they would want to. As a result, they would not establish farms where they wanted to. These restrictions were as a result of the Navigation Acts, Royal Proclamation and the Molasses Act, all which were put in place between 1733-1763. By 1766, there were more acts forcing Americans to pay for a portion of the British colonial defense expenses. American interests were not taken care of in funds allocation even though they paid taxes. This was as a result of the fact that they did not have representation. Americans started fighting back with slogans such as “no taxation no representation” 2.

Equality debates

Racial discrimination is considered one of the most destructive practices in the American history. The last decade of the nineteenth century saw the United States experience high level mushrooming of racial discrimination which fostered racial violence at people of color especially African-Americans, the worst being the slavery period 3. Discrimination was implemented through racial discrimination, private acts of mass racial violence, voter suppression, and denial of economic opportunities and resources to minority groups. The Jim Crow laws as were famously referred to, brought the worst form of racial discrimination.

Civil rights movement, considered the birth of equal justice in the country, resulted from a black people’s struggle to have equal rights. Black people were not even allowed to vote at the time meaning they had no representation in government. This was not just so for black people as it was also applicable to poor whites. Today, the country has made major steps to end racial discrimination through various court decisions in 1960s and 70s. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 prohibited discrimination on the basis of color or race, one of the biggest achievements in the country’s fight against racial discrimination.

Even though it is clear how far the country has come in fighting racial discrimination, it is also important to note that the fight is far from over. Racial discrimination is still rampant in the United States. This is evident by the number of law suits filled every day against individuals and organizations for discriminating on the basis of race. Some laws are also viewed as targeting a group of people from a certain ethical background. A good example is the Arizona anti-immigration law or simply SB 1070 has been a cause for major debate in the country lately, and one which has come under much criticism as being a license for racial profiling. The law allows the police to stop anyone and demand for a proof of legal residence in the country. Analysts believe that people of color will be targeted more than whites since they make majority of the immigrants.

Sex and gender discrimination has a long history in America. Ninety years ago, even after the declaration of independence, women were still not allowed to vote. Gender discrimination has existed since the birth of America but is unfortunate that even in such an advanced age of civilization, it still does exist. Even after the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, women still find it hard to be considered equally for different opportunities and resources provision. It is a fact that “many women still suffer isolation and discrimination once they enter the upper ranks of academia and profession and suffer from an implicit bias against them in the hiring process” 4. Women continue to be excluded in major corporate assignments and there are professions which are still considered as more suitable for men. A good example is the firefighting department which had only 4.8% women firefighters by 2008.

The issue of equal justice in America has been a source of major debates since independence. In the United States’ constitution, equality is provided for in the fourteenth amendment which states that “no state shall….deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws” 5. The inclusion of this law in the constitution is viewed as the country’s commitment to protect principals in which it is build upon which state that all men are equal. The supreme court building in Washington DC has an engraved statement reading equal justice under law, words engraved to denote the supreme court’s commitment to give everyone impartial and equal justice regardless of class, race, sex or any other element that makes us different 6. It is important to realize that equal justice does not call for identical treatment in all circumstances as this may not be practical and would be very unreasonable.

With such provisions in the country’s books of law, it is unfortunate to realize that equal justice is still a dream for many Americans7. The poor are especially affected creating many debates over the issue of indigent defense. Equality calls for equal representation for everyone including the poor. It is in fact the state’s responsibility under the constitution to provide any person who cannot afford counsel with representation and cover all the representation expenses. Poor people obviously have no financial capacity to know or access the best advocates. Many counties also lack enough government financial support to allow government attorneys do proper investigations and give fair representation to poor people.

A recent intelligence investigation report revealed that quite a number of indigent people who have faced death sentences were represented by attorneys who have later been suspended, disbarred and in some cases criminally prosecuted. This is a worrying trend which reveals that there is a very big possibility that some people who have faced death sentences were innocent but lacked proper representation. This raises questions of the country’s commitment to ensuring equal justice to everyone regardless of race of financial status. Considering people of color make up for a bigger percentage in poor neighborhoods, it translates to some races being affected more than others.

Conclusion

The American revolution period brought with it a fight for more intellectual empowerment during the enlightenment period, freedom of religion, liberalism, and Republicanism in the country. The principle behind Jefferson’s statement was equal treatment and opportunities by declaring that all Americans are equal. What makes people different from others should not make them feel more superior or inferior than others. The more one has, the more is expected of them because everything we have comes with a price tag. Talents, academic qualifications, disabilities and financial status should not be used to judge people since it is not possible for two individuals to be completely the same. America has definitely come a long way in achieving equality but the journey is far from over. By passing The Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Sex Discrimination Act 0f 1984 among many other laws, the country has time and again reiterated its commitment to ensuring that no American feels more important than the other.

Today, however, this statement is not at all true in America. The gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen. The rich continue to drive in expensive sports cars while a considerable size of Americans do not even know where to find their next meals. Racism is still a big concern in America and especially if one is an immigrant. Religious intolerance is still high, evident by religious debates in the country such as the most recent over construction of a mosque on ground zero. Equal justice especially for the poor and other minority groups is yet to be resolved. Gay people are fighting for equality each day while political differences constantly divide the country. The country has definitely done much to ensure equality, but it is evident there is still a very long distance to cover. The statement that all men are created equal, is simply far from true in America. The fruits of independence from the American Revolution are yet to be equally felt in the country.

Bibliography

Elias, Paul and Greg Risling. The Huffington Post, 2010.

Harris, Sherly. Employment Discrimination Protections for Transgender People in California, 2010. Web.

McNeese, Tim. “Discrimination in Early America.” Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Great Supreme Court decision. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. American History Online. Web.

The Library of Congress. “A century of Lawmaking for a new Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Journals of the Continental Congress 5: 510- 856. Web.

Footnotes

  1. The Library of Congress, “A century of Lawmaking for a new Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Journals of the Continental Congress 5: 511-512. Web.
  2. The Library of Congress, “A century of Lawmaking for a new Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Journals of the Continental Congress 5: 511-512. Web.
  3. Tim McNeese, “Discrimination in Early America.” Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Great Supreme Court decision. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. American History Online. Web.
  4. Sherly Harris, Employment Discrimination Protections for Transgender People in California (2010). Web.
  5. The Library of Congress, “A century of Lawmaking for a new Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Journals of the Continental Congress 5: 512-513. Web.
  6. The Library of Congress, “A century of Lawmaking for a new Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Journals of the Continental Congress 5: 510-511. Web.
  7. Paul Elias and Greg Risling. “Oscar Grant Verdict: Oakland Riots After Johannes Mehserle Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter.” The Huffington Post, 2010. Web.
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IvyPanda. "“All Men Are Created Equal”: Declaration Review." January 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/all-men-are-created-equal-declaration-review/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "“All Men Are Created Equal”: Declaration Review." January 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/all-men-are-created-equal-declaration-review/.

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