HowDemocracy Influenced Minorities in America
HowDemocracy Influenced Minorities in America
Contraryto what many believe, democracy did not begin with the founding ofAmerica. It is true that the American democracy was held in highregard than the historical monarchies that ruled Europe, but thatdoes not mean democracy started with Americans1.Historical documents show that ancient Greek practiced directdemocracy, a setting in which Citizens meet to discuss all policiesand then make final decisions by majority vote2.The present British municipalities operate using this form ofdemocracy.
AsAristotle argued, Democracy is a principle governed by the rule oflaw. All the policies passed must adhere to the laws of nature.However, this is always not true. We have seen instances where thepolitical class uses democracy to advance their agenda. Scholars havecompared democracy to enslavement of the minorities by the majority.This paper looks at the evolution of democracy in relation tominorities like the Native Americans, Women, Children, AfricanAmericans, and the British. Thediscussion about democracy, illustrates that it had varied effectsand or benefits on different minorities in the United States.
Democracyenhanced the enslavement of Africans in the United States of America.According to Mintz, the Democratic party of the USA was founded in1776, immediately after the revolution3.There was conflict between two parties – farmers (Democratic party)and wealth merchants (Federal Party). The farmers had largeplantations in Florida, Carolina and Virginia. The British Settlers,who considered themselves as nobles, managed their huge plantationsby exploiting the services of African slaves. They were against theidea of banning slave trade4.
Onthe other hand were the merchants. They owned businesses that did notlargely rely on the services of slaves. They wanted a centralgovernment that could build road networks for them to supply theirmerchandise to the interior of America. They also wanted a centralgovernment to impose tariffs on international trade5.The Slave owners opposed this move because it would affect theirinternational trade of slaves.
Therewas only one way to solve this stalemate- a democratic electionbetween the two warring parties. The conflict between slave ownersand merchants played out in the presidential elections and thecongress. During the 1787 elections, the slave owners won more seatsin the House of Representatives because they had the three- fifths ofslaves and the majority of the white population behind them. In whatwas referred to as the three- fifths compromise, each slave gave aslave owner of a particular state three- fifths more of a vote toearn them a seat in the house of representatives6.Finally, the Democrats got to elect one of their own who continued tosupport slave trade and did not impose international tariffs on theslave trade. African slaves were once again victims of democracy.Slave trade continued to thrive because the slave owners made thedecision for everyone else in the name of democracy.
Democracyand Native American’s Civil Rights
Democracyincreased the marginalization of Native Americans. The constitutionis the emblem of democracy. However, when it came to Indian votingrights, the constitution clearly denied them right to vote. Indiansliving on reservations were barred from voting in state and federalelections. As of 1948, Indians in New Mexico and Arizona could notvote7.It was already wrong that the Whites had invaded the Indian lands. Toadd salt to the injury, the same invaders declared that the nativesof the land that they occupy were not American enough to vote. Evenafter fighting for America in the Second World War, many veteranswere disappointed to learn that they still did not qualify to vote inthe country that they were willing to die for.
Ademocracy that vouches for the rule of law helped the Indians receivetheir voting rights. When the World War II veterans came back fromwar, one particular Corp was enraged by the restriction barring allNative Americans from voting. His name was Trujilo. When he went toregister as a voter in a county registrar in New Mexico, he wasturned down because he was an Indian living in a reservation. Thanksto democracy, Trujilo sued the county registrar. He won the lawsuitto allow Indians to register as voters in New Mexico8.By 1982, all the states allowed Indians to register as voters innational and state elections. Democracy allowed the Indians to have asay in the governance of the USA.
Earlydemocracy disadvantaged women in the USA. According to Foner, womenin America began to vote in 19209.Just like the slaves and Indians, the constitution prohibited womenfrom voting. Since a democratic society follows the law of the landto the letter, women had no choice but to abide. Unlike today, theright to vote in those days was an embodiment of status andcitizenship. The constitution clearly stipulated that only thecitizens of the USA could vote. This clause excluded women, black menand women, and Native Americans from the list of USA citizens.
Thanksto democracy, women`s lobby groups could air out theirdissatisfaction regarding the clause denying them the right to vote.Early women- rights groups began to mushroom in between 1820’s and1830’s. During that period, women were getting involved in manyother reform movements such as anti- slavery, civil war andtemperance clubs10.The women groups were fighting against the cult of true womanhood.This was an ideology created by men to define a true woman as the onethat stays at home to take care of her family. The ideology did notconsider it necessary for women to engage in other activities such aspolitics and voting. It took almost a century for the male-dominatedlegislature to allow women to vote through amendments of theconstitution11.Some of the states began to allow women to vote in 1910. By 1920,American women in all the states had the right to vote12.Through democracy, women were able to project their voice regardingtheir desire to vote. At the end of a fierce struggle, their effortsbore fruit.
Democracyand the African Americans
Democracyhas aided the struggle for equality among the African Americans.After the ban on slave trade, many Africans took a sigh of relief,thinking that they were off the hook. What they did not know was thatthey had entered an era where they could only pass for second- classcitizens13.The freed slaves (African Americans) took part in both American wars-the civil and liberation wars. The best reward that the whitesettlers could give them was a second- class citizenship. AfricanAmericans were not allowed to vote, they could not live in certainparts of America, they had their own churches, among otherinjustices. The pinnacle of the discrimination was when the SupremeCourt made the ruling that African Americans were not equal to otherraces that lived in America.
Democracyallows people to hold demonstrations and air their views. Unlikebefore when African slaves could not speak against their slavemasters, the new America gave them the right to speak their minds.They held meetings and street protests. The bone of contention wasthe poor standards in which the government subjected them. Thegovernment denied them education compelling them to build their ownschools and churches. In public transportation, the back seats werereserved for them while the whites took the front ones. Democracygave the African Americans a right to form their own politicalparties and lobby groups. Some of the revolutionary leaders includeKarl Marx and Martin Luther King Jr. They tirelessly fought forequality among the African Americans, despite death threats fromWhite people and the government14.The milestone of the struggle was when the constitution recognizedAfrican Americans as equal citizens.
Inconclusion, democracy has been a curse and a blessing at the sametime. The same democracy that condemned African Americans to slavery,is the same one that awarded them equality. In what seems to becompensation for the past injustices due to democracy, the ideologyhas aided women groups in the fight for equality15.Women are no longer good for cooking and cleaning alone. The NativeAmericans have also gained the recognition that they so yearned for.Finally, democracy has been a tool for fighting marginalizing in theUSA.
ChaversDean. A History of Indian Voting Rights and Why It’s Important toVote. IndianCountry.October 2012.
Dwyer,W. (2002). Inthe hands of the people.New York: Thomas Dunne Books, Saint Martin`s Press.
Fernbach,Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Chartingdemocracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought.Michigan: American University Press, 1995
Foner,Eric. Give Me Liberty!: AnAmerican History. Seagull 4th ed.New York: W.W &, 2014 Pages (54- 200)
Foner,Eric. VoicesofFreedom. A Documentary History. 4th ed.New York: W. W. &, 2014 Pages(20- 400)
MintzEric.Review of John H. Aldrich `Why Parties? The Origin and Transformationof Party Politics in America. CanadianJournal of Political Science, 1996.29(1): 6- 18
1 Fernbach, Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Charting democracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought. Michigan: American University Press, 1995
2 Ibid 1
3 MintzEric. Review of John H. Aldrich `Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Party Politics in America. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 1996. 29(1): 6- 18
4 MintzEric. Review of John H. Aldrich `Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Party Politics in America. Canadian Journal of Political Science. March 1996. 29(1): 6- 18
5 Fernbach, Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Charting democracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought. Michigan: American University Press, 1995
6 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. Seagull 4th ed. New York: W.W &, 2014 Pages (54- 200)
7 Chavers Dean. A History of Indian Voting Rights and Why It’s Important to Vote. Indian Country. October 2012.
8 Ibid 7
9 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. Seagull 4th ed. New York: W.W &, 2014 Pages (54- 200)
10 Fernbach, Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Charting democracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought. Michigan: American University Press, 1995
11 Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom. A Documentary History. 4th ed. New York: W. W. &, 2014 Pages(20- 400)
12 Fernbach, Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Charting democracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought. Michigan: American University Press, 1995
13 Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom. A Documentary History. 4th ed. New York: W. W. &, 2014 Pages(20- 400)
14 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. Seagull 4th ed. New York: W.W &, 2014 Pages (54- 200)
15 Fernbach, Alfred., and Bishko, Charles. Charting democracy in America: landmarks from history and political thought. Michigan: American University Press, 1995