Gabriel Fierro

AP Government
Chapter 5

The Struggle for Equality
Americans have emphasized equal rights and opportunities rather than equal results. In the Constitution,
only the 14th Amendment mentions equality. To determine whether classifications in laws and regulations
are in keeping with the amendment’s equal protection clause, the Supreme Court developed three
standards of review: most classifications need only be reasonable, racial or ethnic classifications are
inherently suspect, and classifications based on gender receive intermediate scrutiny.
African Americans’ Civil Rights
Racial discrimination is rooted in the era of slavery, which lasted about 250 years and persisted in an era
of segregation, especially in the South, into the 1950s. The civil rights movement achieved victories
through civil disobedience and through the Court rulings, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education,
voiding discrimination in the education system, transportation, and other areas of life. 1960s, Congress
prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, housing, and voting.
The Rights of Other Minority Groups
Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Arab Americans and Muslims have suffered
discriminatory treatment. Yet each group has benefitted from the application of Court decisions and
legislation of the civil rights era. These groups have also engaged in political action to defend their rights.
The Rights of Women
After a long battle, women won the vote, with the passage of the 19th Amendment, in 1920. Beginning in
the 1960s, a second feminist wave successfully challenged gender based classifications regarding
employment, property, and other economic issues. Despite increased equality, issues remain, including
lack of parity in wages, participation in the military, and combating sexual harassment.
Other Groups Active Under the Civil Rights Umbrella
Seniors and people with disabilities have successfully fought bias in employment, and the latter have
gained greater access to education and public facilities. Gays and lesbians have faced more obstacles to
overcoming discrimination and have been more successful in areas such as employment and privacy
than in obtaining the right to marry.
Affirmative Action
Affirmative action policies, which began in the 1960s, are designed to bring about increased employment,
promotion, or admission for members of groups that have suffered from discrimination. In recent years,
the Supreme Court has applied the inherently suspect standard to affirmative action policies and
prohibited quotas and other means of achieving more equal rights.
Understanding Civil Rights and Public Policy
Civil rights policies advance democracy because equality is a basic principle of democratic government.
When majority rule threatens civil rights, the latter must prevail. Civil rights policies limit government
discrimination but also require an active government effort to protect the rights of minorities.