There are many things that stand out in America as we have all come to know it today. Among those that are in the majority there are no worries, and things are typically thought to be very equal and just. Everything is relative, and compared to the past everything is equal and just, but there is a lot of ground that can still be made. There are numerous examples throughout our history of people stating grievances in the cases of women’s rights, African American rights, GLBT issues, and even the unstated privileges white people are given today. America was founded strongly with expressions such as, “all men are created equal” (Jefferson, 1776, p. 5).
There are many arguments to be made that this expression was not all people, but all men because those in power are self-interested. Whites still have privileges that would not want to be given up, and disadvantages are given to minority groups in turn. African American, women, and GLBT issues are still very present today, and people are still suffering because of it. The thought of equality was started when Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence at the originating times of America.
The thought of equality was a cornerstone in the building of our government. The founding fathers started this thread of self-interest that is continuing on even today. White men all wrote and decided on the founding principles of our country at the onset in 1776.
It is because of their self-interest that everything was setup giving whites, and especially white men many advantages. People in power do not want to give up the advantages they have been given without a fight. This is evident in the fact that whites still have not given up very many, if any of the advantages in everyday life. The truth is that those in power are for some reason afraid of sharing this power. For people to stay in power they feel they must not let others obtain any for themselves. We now live in such a diverse country it has proved to be too great of a task for anybody to be successful in the attempt.
The Declaration of Sentiments is an article written collaboratively by Mary Ann McClintock, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Martha Coffin Wright. It was written at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848, the first of several public women’s rights gatherings in America. It paralleled the Declaration of Independence in many ways, but instead applied to the rights of women being equal with men.
These women were setting out to inspire the women of the United States to fight for equal rights to those men had, like they were already doing. There were many grievances in the article about the government as it was at the time the article was written. They referred to some “He” (McClintock, Mott, Stanton, Wright, 1848, p.) repetitively, referring to mankind in general, and especially the men of America. The Declaration of Independence does this as well, but of course referring to God. The beginning of this article uses the same words as the Declaration of Independence, but adds “and women” (McClintock, Mott, Stanton, Wright, 1848, p.) to a couple of key parts.
Overall it lays out the same rights and liberties that were previously laid out for the country, but adds things specifically for women not previously included; which is all rights. They finish by laying out the fact that they will do everything possible to achieve all of the rights they believe themselves to have been born with. These women had very good intentions of trying to gain what we think of as equality. However, they do exhibit the same kind of self-interest mentioned earlier.
Men had the power, and women absolutely did need a voice to help gain equality for them. One thing I notice is that they were not asking for the rights of any other minority group in the United States at the time. If anything they should have felt sympathetic towards groups like immigrants and African Americans who had very few rights at this point in our history. Groups like these have to find their own leaders to act as a voice to the public.
This brings me to the next portion of the thread, the African-Americans who are represented in this case by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King wrote the article Letter From Birmingham Jail in 1963, after being imprisoned for a demonstration in Birmingham. He was in the interest of the African-Americans, especially in the south where the segregation and discrimination were prevalent.
Blacks in this country had supposedly been given their freedom a long time ago, but were still never treated with the equality that they deserved. In this article, King wrote about why he was in that prison. He said, “Basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (King, 1963, p.67). He did not want to be one of the many who sat idly by while injustice continued. There were many blacks that wanted their rights at this point in time and were very much in support of Dr. King, but never really stood up and did anything about it. King appreciated the support but still criticized these people.
He felt that in any nonviolent campaign there are four steps: “collection of facts to determine injustices, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action” (King, 1963, p.67). The injustices were obviously there at the time. Next up was the negotiation, and that was obviously something very difficult for him to do at the time. Self-purification was a necessary step because you must know what you really want for yourself before you can stand up to anyone. Direct action was nonviolent action, like sit-ins and demonstrations in the streets.
This was very necessary in order to get people to notice what was being done. The interest Dr. King had in his own cause was very understandable, but present nonetheless. He was imprisoned at the time, but did show thought for his cause more than for himself in this letter. Dr. King did have a way of making whatever he did for his cause very public. This is a trend for the people who are leaders for their particular cause. This was an issue that was focused on very publicly at the time he wrote this article.
When cases are so publicly known it does make them hard to ignore. In America today some of the biggest issues spoken about constantly are GLBT issues, and especially same sex marriages. In the newest portion of this thread in American history, homosexuals do not feel like they are getting all of the rights they deserve and people like Nava and Dawidoff are standing up for these rights. In the article What do They Want Anyway?, Nava and Dawidoff (1994) discuss the GLBT issues that so many Americans face today. They try to explore what it is that this group of minorities is looking for. The answer given throughout is simple; they “want the same thing everyone else does” (Nava and Dawidoff, 1994, p. 91).
They state the idea that marriage “is not strictly a heterosexual impulse, and that it is as much a creation of law and social policy as of religious belief” (Nava and Dawidoff, 1994, p.93). It is a fact that there are many reasons to want to get married, including the economic and social benefits that are involved. In this case of GLBT issues that Nava and Dawidoff bring up the struggle is still going on more than ever. It is an issue to the point of being able to hear about it almost on a daily basis. These two men wrote this article on the basis that tradition alone is not enough to deny certain minority groups their rights.
They are very interested in their own cause once again in this case. This one is a bit different though in that they bring up past issues of minority groups in America that have made it well on their way to a state of equality with the majority. The majority is an entirely different group that hardly goes mentioned beyond comparisons in articles promoting minority rights. Peggy McIntosh brought into the open the majority of people, and the many advantages given to them that go unspoken. She wrote the article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack in 1988.
This article is far more recent than the many civil rights struggles are thought to have been. The point she brings up proves that these minorities are still not completely equal with everyone else. This article jumps out to me as a person in the most advantaged group of people in the United States to this day, the white male. In this article she decided to list 26 of the white privileges she faces on a daily basis herself. This is an interesting way to look at it considering that she was coming from her own point of view, and the advantages she has as a white person.
These reasons examined things she said we are taught growing up not to even think about to prove her point. Some of these included “being able to be in the company of my own race most of the time” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 186). Also, being sure when pulled over or audited “I haven’t been singled out because of race” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 187). These are things I do not often think of unless I see it happen to a person of another race. In respects like this I do believe she achieved what she set out to do in this article.
Minorities in the world are always suspicious to those not in that minority, just as is true with the inverse of this statement. Alex Kotlowitz brought this issue to the foreground with his 1998 novel, The Other Side of the River. Kotlowitz wrote a factual story about a young African-American boy whose body was found in the river that separates two towns of completely contrasting racial make-ups. This true story is an extreme example of the racism that occurs in the world as it is today.
On the African-American side of the river everyone is sure that the death of this boy, Eric McGinnis, is a classic case of racially charged murder. On the other side of the river in St. Joseph there is no clear verdict, as it just depends on who is being asked. In such a case one has to wonder if there is a double standard present. Because the case never came to a real good conclusion, people in Benton Harbor are left wondering how the case would have been handled if it were a white person last seen in Benton Harbor.
Kotlowitz attempted to look at the case from both sides and saw no discrepancies. In conclusion, there are many people representing many different minority groups stating the case for equality in America. There are even those in the majority finding themselves looking at the usually unspoken differences that exist in our society. However, the majority of people share a common thread of self-interest throughout our history. From our founding fathers all the way up through every civil rights struggle that has gone on or is going on today.
The intentions of these people are usually good in nature, but the things that stands out is that they do look out for themselves, and make no case for any other group in need of such equality. McClintock, Mott, Stanton, and Wright made their case for women’s rights in 1848. Martin Luther King went through the struggle for African American rights in the 1960’s. Nawa and Davidoff are feeling the struggle of GLBT issues even still today. These people all have acted as a voice for the respective minority groups, and that is what people must continue to do. The men who originally made such inequalities gave them the right to have a voice, if nothing else.