Social Exclusion and How it Relates to the United States Today

 

     As mentioned in Sarah Schindler’s Architectural Exclusion, while it could be argued that social exclusion and injustice has improved over the last two centuries with the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage, it appears that the injustice has only become more dispersed, impacting a much larger number of Americans. Groups like blacks, hispanics, Muslims, homosexuals, and even non-minority groups like women are affected daily by all kinds of social injustice like misogyny, racism, and discrimination, and that only names a few.

 

     With the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the United States saw an end to slavery, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. The amendment only technically ended slavery. It continued in the form of peonage, a loophole for former slave owners, giving former slaves places to live in exchange for free labor. This was one of very few options for many former slaves, because most of them had lived on plantations prior to the abolition, and after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, they had nowhere to go.

     Racism and discrimination continued into the 1900’s through the implementation of Jim Crow laws; Laws that heavily separated people of color from whites through segregated public spaces like restaurants and drinking fountains. This segregation continued in the south until Brown vs. Board of Education brought significant changes to public policy regarding integration.

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     Racially charged social injustice has stayed alive in modern day in the form of police brutality and racial profiling. Over the past two years, cop-related violence has been in the news almost perpetually. Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr., Freddie Gray, and many more were victims to police related violence in the last two years alone. The “Stop and Frisk” law regularly targets minority groups like blacks and hispanics.

     Another group that regularly experiences the results of social exclusion are are Muslims. Considering recent shootings in Europe and the United States that ISIS has claimed responsibility for, the presidential candidate for one of America’s two major parties plan to implement an anti-Muslim immigration policy, barring any new citizens of Muslim descent to entering the country. Even today in post-9/11 America, Muslims are a group that are frequently “randomly selected” in security checkpoints at airports, simply for wearing a hijab.

     The exclusion doesn’t stop there, either. Recently, the LGBT community has become victim of discrimination based on their sexuality. North Carolina’s “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act” is particularly discriminatory toward transgender people, only allowing people to use bathrooms based on their assigned gender identity. In many places around the country, businesses can turn away homosexual couples because it “conflicts with their personal beliefs.” Not even women escape exclusion, being paid significantly less for doing the same job that a male counterpart does.

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     Social exclusion has been an issue in the American socio-political system since the beginning. Systematic racism, sexism, and profiling have lived in various forms in the country over the century, but continues to play a roll today.

Connecting the Concepts of Liberalism and Republicanism to United States Politics

As described in David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Liberalism and Republicanism both have agreeable similarities and stark contrasts. Fleming compares both schools of thought to a time in world history (Republicanism to Golden Age Athens and Liberalism to 18th and 19th century transatlantic enlightenment) (Pages 25-26.)  The Golden age of Athens refers to a time in Athens, Greece where government became increasingly more democratic, departing from the old ways of strictly aristocratic and elitist rule. This period gave more power to the general public than ever before in Greece. Similarly, the transatlantic Enlightenment refers to the period in 18th and 19th century Europe and United States, where the great minds of the time drafted such documents like the United States Constitution post U.S. revolution and the August Decrees during revolution-era France.

 

Republicanism promotes self-governance in a small community, including direct democracy where the people directly elect officials to office. As a result, people in a Republican community are expected to be extremely involved in their respective political climates. There is a huge focus on the community as a whole, and how each member of the community contributes to the greater good. Fleming criticizes republicanism for its’ overzealous use of involvement in politics, calling it “too demanding, too consuming… stifling” (Pages 25-26.) He claims that the over-involvement can create a lack of individualism through lack of “difference” or “anonymity.” Comparisons to republicanism can be drawn—funny enough, to the Republican Party of the United States of America today. The Party favors small government, with the creation state laws that are enforced over collective, federal law. Also, Republican voters tend to be older, more conservative, and more involved in politics than Democratic voters, who tend to be younger, less involved, and more Liberal, which will be discussed later. As a result of the republican focus on small, community-based governance, there can be problems. Going back to the example of Greece, Athens was regularly at war with neighboring city-states like Sparta due to differing ideals.unknown

 

Liberalism, in contrast to Republicanism’s controlled, community-based ideology, is a school of thought built around the principle of individuality. As opposed to Republicanism’s community based, hyper-involved style of civilization, Liberalism is far more relaxed. Individual rights are placed on the highest run of the political and ideological ladder in a Liberal society, meaning government has little control over day to day activities, besides major overlaying tenets that ensure no group is favored over another. A comparison can be drawn between this definition of Liberalism and today’s Democratic Party in the United States. The Democratic Party strives for laws and regulations that blanket all fifty states, so there can be no way to dispute the basic rights that citizens of all fifty states hold, while protecting privacy. The problem with Liberalism is that rules that are often instated are so general, that they leave far too much to interpretation. Also, with Liberalism focusing more on individual rights instead of community based involvement, there is often nowhere near enough political involvement. In contrast to the older, highly involved Republicans discussed in the previous paragraph, Democratic voters are typically younger, and have a significantly lower voter turnout than their Republican counterparts.

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The concepts of Republicanism and Liberalism are applied to the United States bipartisan system on a regular basis, even if it’s only through the abstract ideas of small, community based government or individualism applied through law. These concepts are reflected in the minds of the great thinkers and the important documents of periods like the Golden Age of Athens and the Transatlantic Enlightenment during the birth of the United States and French Revolution.