Living in the political era of an African American president, debates continue on various issues. These include immigration policy, the war on terror, and the battle for national healthcare. Times are significantly different from those of the civil rights movement. During the 1970’s and 80’s there was discussion over the subject of race as it relates to American politics. Many indicate that because of progress made in legislation and public policy concerning African Americans and civil liberties, racial inequality would be a thing of the past. However, many other scholars disagreed. One such individual was Mr. Dale Rogers Marshall. In his article, “The Continuing Significance of Race: The Transformation of American Politics”, Marshall concluded that race continues and shape and transform United States policy. After studying and understanding the article and its argument, it is my personal opinion that Marshall presented valid facts and justification to prove that race is an intricate part of American politics.
Once gaining independence, America began to shape legislation and policy around the beliefs and perception of the era. It was considerably argued by the forefathers and authors of the American constitution. It made a significant impact on the American economy as observed through American slavery. Although Black slavery is a complex and interweaving fact of American history, various steps have been taken towards social and racial equality. This was indicated by the emancipation proclamation and the various amendments made to the constitution, granting rights to the citizens of America. Women and African Americans were allowed the right to vote, as well as other changes in policy can be observed as seen in Pelssy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Wade. Consequently, the parallel between race and public policy has been ongoing since the birth of the United States. Race continues to play a major role in American politics.
Opponents argued that, “because overt discrimination against blacks was decreasing and the visibility of any one issue short lived, analyst too hastily concluded that race was no longer a major factor in United States politics”, (Marshall, 1990). However, because discrimination is invisible, does not mean that it is not present. Some suggest that policy continues to oppress and discriminate particular communities. Even Marshall admits in his article, that “Congress has provided the president less support in civil rights than in other policy areas”, (Marshall, 1990). This can be seen in voter’s rights, immigration reform, and the public healthcare debate. Individuals with a felony background are not allowed to vote, when African Americas are disproportionately incarcerated and imprisoned than their white counterparts. Furthermore, some states have attempted to pass laws requiring individuals to present ID at the ballot box which some may view as discriminatory against Hispanics. The high rates of poverty, incarceration, and even educated of people of color compared to White Americans, provide further arguments. These represent just a short list of examples, to suggest institutional bias within the political structure. It reaches across platforms to suggest the layers and complexity in which prejudice lies within the frame work of politics and society.
The inherent discriminatory practices of American politics were also recognized in Marshall’s article. He indicates that these and other oppressive policies present in the 1980’s and 90’s, “contributes to our understanding of the complex way the Civil Rights Movement promoted change in U.S political institutions”, (Marshall, 1990). The article suggests that, although discrimination isn’t visible to the naked eye, racism continues in inadvertent ways through policy and legislation. Marshall recognizes that some of the discriminatory practices can be seen in the handling of the poor and underprivileged as many politicians hide under the cover of the class system. This can be seen during the Obama presidency when Congress overturned Obama’s healthcare bill. Most Blacks and people of color are classified as poor and middleclass, thus the political arena is able to disenfranchise those who are Black because they are also poor.
African Americans continue to shape politics through voting and elections. Blacks have placed other Blacks into office due to their exercise of control in elections. Marshall iterated that, “electoral success was due to superior black political organization, black economic independence, middle-class black leaders, high black registration turn out, relatively liberal white attitudes, and a fluid, open power structure”, (1990). This was also witnessed during the 2008 Obama campaign. Many of the African American elite helped advertise, promote, and encourage the African American vote. This was seen as talk show host Oprah Winfrey endorsed his campaign and celebrities such as rapper and producer Sean “P Diddy” Combs encouraged young Blacks to hit the ballots. Consequently, it is apparent even today that “blacks needed external support from the federal government and outside groups in order to achieve political change”, (Marshal, 1990).
In conclusion, African Americans and other minorities continue to be oppressed and disenfranchised by American politics and government. Not only are Blacks being oppressed, all people of color are affected by these policies including the poor, Hispanics, and Muslim Americans. Hispanics continue to be harassed concerning citizenship and are racially targeted in some states like Texas and Arizona. The poor continue to have limited access to healthcare and many Blacks remain dependent welfare and public housing. Despite the continued state of oppression, progress has been made in non-White communities. The first Hispanic was appointed to the Supreme Court Justice and America witnessed its first African American President. However, in his article Marshall concluded that, “when the White United States acclimates itself to having black people in power, it will be possible to move beyond the politics of pigmentation”, (1990). The major question, is America really acclimated to having an African American president? Although it is possible for American politics and legislature to move pass the race issue, 50 years after the civil rights era, this has yet to be accomplished.
Marshall, D. (1990). The continuing significance of race: The transformation of American
politics . The American Political Science Review, 84(2), 611-616.