Any sentence that has the word “man” in it hasn’t always been a neutral word. Long ago, the word “man” would always be accompanied by the distinction between “Black” and “White”. Nowadays, the distinction is not pertinent to the story. Although, this was not always the case, ever since the civil rights movement and the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, which stated that separate is indeed not equal, the separation between “Black” and “White” has never been thinner.
When the Jim Crow laws were in effect, the south was extremely segregated (which is not to say that the north was not segregated in some places). However, one case stands out. Homer Adolph Plessy was a thriving Louisiana entrepreneur living in Baton Rouge. Content with people of both racial groups, Plessy had had one African-American grandparent. Even though he did not think of himself African American, Louisiana law defined him as “octaroon” which means one-eighth African American. Plessy was accused under the statute after he declined to leave the part of a train held in reserve for whites. Plessy petitioned the Louisiana Supreme Court for a court order against Ferguson, the trial court judge, to end the dealings against him for criminal disobedience of the State law. However, the Louisiana State Supreme Court refused. Convicted and fined, Plessy then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The issue that stood in this case involved the never ending question: was the statute calling for separate, but equal accommodations on railroad transportation steady with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?
The answer, of course, was a yes which was confirmed by the State Supreme Court. Justice Henry Brown affirmed that even though the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution was intended to implement the impartiality between the races, it was not anticipated to eliminate differences based on color, or to put into effect a commingling of the races in a means that would be substandard to either. Justice Brown delivered the 7-1 decision of the Court that upheld the Louisiana law entailing segregation. Moreover, Brown noted that the law did not in fact infringe upon either the 13th or 14th Amendments. He confirmed that the 13th Amendment functioned merely to slavery, and the 14th amendment was not planned to give African Americans communal equality but only political and civil equality with white people.
This ruling was used by closet racists and racists to justify their hatred of Blacks. A quote which was stated by a judge on the case was “Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts, or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences…the Constitution of the US cannot put them upon the same plane.” This ruling, which specified that the federal government would officially accept the “separate but equal” doctrine, was ultimately used to substantiate segregating all municipal services, including railroad cars, restaurants, hospitals, and schools. Nevertheless, “colored” facilities were by no means equal to their white equivalent in certainty, and African Americans underwent throughout decades of devastating prejudice in the South and other places because of the ruling. Fortunately, and FINALLY, in the year of 1954, Plessy v. Ferguson was beat down by the Supreme Court in their undisputed ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Rather ironically, despite the fact that Brown who is a Northerner, defended the segregation of the races, Justice John Marshall Harlan, on the other hand who was a Southerner, made a single, deep dissent. He stated, “The Thirteenth Amendment…struck down the institution of slavery [and]…decreed universal civil freedom,” Harlan declared. “Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” Harlan’s dissent became the major subject matter of the unanimous decision of the Court in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.Throughout those Federal actions, numerous states amended their state constitutions to do the accepted thing with the courage of the 14th Amendment.
Unfortunately, for Homer Plessy this all came too late. This case ruling did not only fail to define justice in America, but it completely disregarded the fundamental rights of of a US citizen due to the color of their skin. No immense national dispute was pursued the Plessy decision. Segregation was an issue shoved off to the corner of our national life, and would remain so for practically 60 years. No matter how much better attitudes towards blacks and whites have become over the years, it is a true shame to think about the dreadful people treated one another because of the mere fact that they have a different skin color than what was socially acceptable. The fact that higher and more ‘intelligent’ people of the law such as the supreme court justices could not even make it a fair and easy trial is an extreme absurdity to our nation and what we stood for when this nation was brought up and contradicts what we are made of!