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Gender and Race in Citizenship

October 29, 2010

In discussion section, we mentioned the idea of citizenship being based on race and sometimes gender. I found this notion to be extremely interesting and relevant to my studies this semester. I never really thought about the difference between simply being born in America (being American), and actually being provided with the rights guaranteed to a citizen. After reading Malcolm X in class, and after learning about the forming of the American constitution in my history class, I realized that from the founding of the constitution (about 1776), to the fight for African American civil rights, America had stayed a republic for white male elites.

In my history class, and in our reading (A People and a Nation), we read that the framers of the constitution wrote it for a white male republic. Although some framers wanted to slowly end the importation and trading of slaves, African Americans were still not the main population that would benefit from the rights and liberties guaranteed in the constitution.

While reading Malcolm X’s speech, he explains that even though African Americans had been living in America for a long time (from the time of slavery), recent immigrants who were white, blue-eyed and European were provided with the rights and liberties associated with citizenship in the constitution before the African Americans.

It is quite disappointing to see the connection that exists between the framers of the constitution’s decisions to create a white male republic (the framers were all white and elite) and the governmental administrations continuing these white male republic virtues through the times of the civil rights movements. With such a vast period of time, and with important changes in society like the emancipation of slavery, one would think that these citizens would be rightfully given the liberties provided to every other American citizen at this time.

African Americans fought for their liberties more than any citizen of America should have had to through protests, boycotts (a possible recurrence of the American revolution?) and an ambitious desire to gain liberties from a constitution that regarded all men as equal. Although less prevalent, as white women were provided with important civil liberties (like the right to vote) before they were provided to African Americans, women had an equal plight in their quest for civil liberties. Some were even inclined to help African Americans fight for their liberties, after the women had been granted theirs. This inequality between white men and women also existed during the framing of the constitution, where Abigail Adams asked her to husband to remember the women, or they would have a revolution for their own rights as well.

The unequal distribution of liberties and rights given to African Americans and women are very similar to each other, and both were prevalent from the beginning of the American republic into the civil rights decades. In a land where all men are created equal, where is the equality in generations where people (men, women, black, white) were not provided with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

One Comment
  1. greguff permalink
    November 2, 2010 7:07 PM

    You make some interesting points in your claims here, however I think your points are too generalized. The framers of the Constitution did not have alternative intentions to exclude blacks from the Constitution. However, in more recent decades, it is more disappointing to see how the government responded to civil rights. The government completely unfairly favored the white population during the civil rights movement, and did not help the blacks at all. I agree with you that through the generations there hasn’t been equality among everyone even though we live in a land “where all men are created equal”. Yet in recent efforts, over the past two decades the government has been making strides to increase liberty for everyone and restore our country to what our framers intended it to be.

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