“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
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The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position.
We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption. The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation and that equal rights cannot be secured to the Negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals.”
The above passage describes the case of Plessy v Fergusson which occurred in May 18, 1896. The issue was whether the Whites and Blacks had to be separated in the society. The main argument provided in this passage was on the enforcement of the segregation laws. According to the plaintiff, the enforcement of these laws would make the colored race the inferior race.
In the main decision of 7-1, the court disagreed with the plaintiff stating that there was no way the Louisiana state laws went against the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth amendment rights of the colored people. In the opinion offered by Judge Henry Brown, the court shot down the Plessy’s argument because it interpreted the constitution wrongly, by arguing that the separation would place the colored people in an inferior position.
The majority argued that the inferiority that existed in the colored people existed only in the minds of the African Americans. The judges introduced a scenario in which they assumed that the colored race was the superior one in the state legislature, then they would pass laws in the precise terms as the current laws that the white race would be relegated to the inferior race.
The other unproven statement made in this argument by the Supreme Court is that African Americans would be happier if they were not mixed with the white or other ethnicities. In the third sentence of the passage, the majority argued that if the two races were “to meet upon social inequality”, natural affinity might have caused it. In addition, the acknowledgment of each other’s abilities and the consent of individuals had to be there.
They assumed that social prejudice could not be overruled by legislation. The fourth amendment of the Constitution was effective in protecting against social prejudices, the colored people were protected against being deprived of “liberty” because of races segregation.
Passing the law of segregation and expecting the races to mix through a natural inclination is ridiculous as the law creates an assumption that penetrating is similar to breaking the law, and therefore, impossible. It is believed that prejudices that exist in the society can be eliminated by legislation.
Brown’ s argument lacks logic, he assumes that the blacks are suffering from inferiority complex; he forgets that they might have been prompted to do so by the “badge of inferiority” that has been afflicted to them by the law. He chooses to question the plaintiff argument but doesn’t question the laws. He does not believe that the fourteenth amendment of the constitution also protects the colored race from the southern states laws. He only believes that the fourteenth amendment was supposed to protect blacks from slavery.
Brown in his argument doesn’t bring forth the evidence to prove the scenario in which he stated that, if Blacks were put in the same position as Whites, they would do the same as that done by whites in legislation of segregation laws”, his scenario is thus implicitly made. His statement assumes that whites would never be the inferior race even if the reverse is done; his belief undermines his later statement that the law should allow “mutual appreciation of each others merits”
John Marshals dissenting opinion predicted that decision set forth in Plessy v Ferguson would become infamous just like that of Dred Scott v Saidford, in which he called for a ‘color-blind’ constitution. He gave an example of the Chinese race (a race which was viewed as inferior) as Chinese people were allowed to share the same facilities with the whites.
He alluded to the fact that the Chinese race was very different from the white race, but people were allowed to mix with the whites, so why the blacks could not be allowed to do the same.
The sole dissenting judge also acknowledged that these laws allowed for a form of slavery in contravention of the constitution, the lifestyle led by blacks was similar to that discussed by Professor Brook Thomas in his lecture during the world war in which a black general was not allowed to dine with Nazi prisoners; thus the law can be considered to be unconstitutional.
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The law is also unconstitutional as the effect is only felt by the blacks and not the whites, it is clear that the law was trying to protect the inferior Whites from the superior blacks and not the other way round. The segregation laws were creating a conducive environment for the Whites while inconveniencing the blacks, as judge Harlan states, the purpose of the statutes was to exclude blacks from railroads assigned to whites and not the other way round.
And according to the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution laws, the immunities of citizens shouldn’t be enforced by states as they are unconstitutional, assuming that one can create two separate systems that are similar to each other and can never be achieved.
The law’s purpose was to abolish racism and, in addition, establish absolute equality of the races based on the law as opposed to political, social, or a combination of the two, stating otherwise is incorrect. Any other distinction based on color cannot be seen as intending to abolish natural rights and freedoms.
On the other hand, it is impossible to enforce political or social equality as they are different from each other, the law that permits the separation of one race from the other doesn’t necessarily imply that one race is inferior to the other. An example of this is the separation of people according to their races in schools, church and many other places.
This separation has been held to be valid legislative prerogative, and the northern states have been the longest and the most earnest enforcers and defenders of the political rights of the colored race. They have acknowledged the validity of the separation laws (Fogli ,para 2).
Fogli, Counterarguing Strategies, U. S. 2007.Print