Pradeep Kumar and June L D Souza
The good feelings among African Americans after Barack Obama’s election co-exist with a persistent belief that discrimination and unfairness remain a part of life for them in the United States. The unemployment rate for black skinned people was roughly double that for whites throughout America.
tableAnother research survey conducted in May of the same year, posed the question to respondents, “How much discrimination is there against African Americans in America today”. The resultant answers would in the words of Obama “shock Gandhi.”
Let us take the case of Native American Indians.
Assimilation and Americanization has ruined much of the Native American culture. Native Americans are forced to continue fighting for their civil rights since they reel under constant discrimination. They continue to be helpless victims of religious discrimination, along with social and political discrimination. Social discrimination has always been evident among the Native American population. Most history books in the U.S. conspicuously neglect to mention the discrimination that they faced. Native Americans also faced unequal segregation, with water fountains being labelled “whites,” “blacks,” and “Indians.”
Native Americans were not granted citizenship until after African Americans were granted their citizenship. It is embarrassing for the U.S. administration to admit that the Native American Indians were granted citizenship only as recently as the post World War I era, with the Indian Citizenship Act. This landmark Act was opposed by a majority of the immigrants to America, namely ‘whites’. They seemed to forget that the land which they had occupied belonged to the native Indians first and foremost. The Act gave most Native Americans suffrage, and allowed them to leave their reservations to seek better opportunities.
They faced attacks from white men, most notoriously with the Battle of Wounded Knee, taking away their land and forcing them to live on reservations. Although Native Americans consist of many tribes, they were all treated the same and faced the same discrimination.
Today, Native Americans still face many social problems. In 1998, the Supreme Court allowed the construction of a Forest service road through an ancient site held sacred by several Native American tribes. This shows that even today, they face challenges with the government seeking control over their land. They also face many educational issues and many tribes are deprived the education that is available to most other American citizens.
In Utah, for example, the Department of justice recently sued a local school district for not providing a school in a remotely isolated community. The students were forced to live in dormitories 90 miles away from home, while attending school. The struggle for social equality by the Native American race still continues, and hopefully one day people will accept them for who they are.
Political discrimination is also clearly evident amongst the Native American race. They follow their tribal governments which deserve recognition by the political government in the State. This has been regulated in some areas but the struggle continues in others, as the natives want to preserve their customs and traditions, while the political leaders of the national government generally tend to look unfavourably upon the same.
The U.S. Constitution grants many of the rights that the Native Americans are guaranteed, in which the government is obligated to protect, (but they still fail to protect) many of these rights. The government believes that it loses control of the Native American population with the formation of Native American Councils. Native American politicians continue to fight for Native American Participation in political elections, as the Native American population has very little impact on most political elections. Also, the government provides insufficient funds for the tribal government, along with neglect of training and technical assistance.
Although all of these events seem negative, Native Americans continue to fight for sovereignty and political equality. The Native American Rights Fund continues to protect tribal sovereignty and the suffrage of Native Americans.
As recently as 2013 it was ruled by a U.S. Judge that a Maricopa County Sheriff routinely discriminated against persons of Latino descent and dark skinned people. He termed the actions of the Sheriff as ‘racial and ethnic profiling’. CNN reported that the Sheriff’s office has a history of targeting vehicles with occupants with darker skin or Latin heritage, scrutinizing them more strictly and detaining them more often. Again in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the use of a key provision in the landmark ‘Voting Rights Act’ of 1965, in effect invalidating federal enforcement over all or parts of 15 States with past history of voter discrimination. This gives more freedom from review or supervision to the States. They cannot be questioned about their discriminative tendencies if any.
On June 21st, 2013, the Racial Justice Act was repealed in North Carolina. The Racial Justice Act, allowed condemned convicts to use statistical analysis to argue that race played a role in their sentencing.
Finally, Native Americans continue to struggle economically. Many Native Americans are treated unfairly when applying for a job, as racial discrimination still exists. In 1991, the supreme court ruled that State laws did not have to justify the unequal religious freedoms that Native Americans received, just after two Native Americans were declined a job because they took peyote, or the tubercles of a peyote that has been considered illegal by many U.S. State Governments.
There have nonetheless been some positives in the struggle for economic equality for Native Americans. The Indian Allotment Act gave Native Americans much of the land that they lost, and gave them large sums of money to help preserve their culture and remain active. The United States government also passed the Snyder Act, which allowed the Bureau to teach irrigation and farming skills so that the Native American economy could be more self-sufficient. Despite the passing of these acts many Native Americans still face poverty, and many are refused ‘Social Security Service’ and funds from the government because of their race.
Pradeep Kumar is a research scholar on Constitutional Law and writes on Human Rights. He also teaches Law at Mewar University. June D Souza is LLB, LLM. The authors can be reached at [email protected]