Research Paper

Sharif Perkins
Law Through Literature
Research Paper

Inequality has been the biggest thorn in social progression in

the United states since its birth, which made it impossible for

the oppressed to establish “self reliance”.

To begin the discussion I wanted to examine the events the

“Mississippi Burning” as it speaks closely to the topic at hand.

The film took place in the state of Mississippi as the title

suggests and though fictional, it outlined some of the rash

circumstances that Blacks faced at the time. Amongst the many

ways the KKK oppressed the people of color was the burning of

churches in mass. From a social standpoint these actions

demonstrated that they do not allow freedom religion to blacks,

a way to keep the people of color absent from society in a

sense. One motive behind this was to keep the people from

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establishing or maintaining the unity they have as a race; to

keep them separated in a sense as the oppressed people are

weaker alone as opposed to in a group. They burned these

churches in attempt to also burn their beliefs, to give them the

outlook that there is no salvation for the life of blacks in

Mississippi. Indicated by some of the music in the film, the

tunes suggest to the people not to fight back; they suggest

salvation is with god, to turn the other cheek and not to fear

death. The idea which I believe the director wanted to highlight

was that the lyrics in the film was possibly the only faiths

that the people of color had to go on.  These burnings happened

on a daily basis which make for a strong point that a large part

of the white community in Mississippi were strongly against any

kind of social progression even within the black community

themselves. The goal that Mississippi had in mind during the

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times of the Mississippi burning trials and before that the

blacks stay separated, alone, and oppressed. Emmerson said “if

you wish to be the non-conformist, the world will whip you with

displeasure” and practicing religion for people of color was

against the norms of society therefore society took a stab at em

every time they got.   During the Film the FBI ask questions to

several people of color to aid in their investigation with the

missing civil rights workers. The interesting part about the

individuals that were questioned is that they either were killed

or beaten by the whites just for speaking to the police. Theres

a notion to “trust thyself” and speak from the inmost which

Emmerson emphasizes a bit; that you aren’t whole unless you

speak from your heart. To take a look at the circumstances, if

the Blacks spoke from their heart then they would be killed. The

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rules were simple for blacks in Mississippi at the time, keep

your mouth shut, eat, sleep, work, and thats it. When the

country originates from morales like these it leaves a scar in

the history of the country and the remnants of that scar is what

adds yet another roadblock in social progression today.

Beginning in the 1890’s there would be laws that would provide

one of the biggest stains in American Society which was the

upbringing of the Jim Crow laws. For over 50 years these laws

would continue to be in effect and these laws suggest “separate

but equal” treatment between white and colored folk(PBS 1). It

divided the society in almost every way possible from separate

schools and parks, even down to separate busses ad trains(PBS

1). This idea of separation goes against the very fabric of we

consider this day and age to be a functioning society as all its

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members cannot conform to the same interests. Despite the law

saying “separate but equal”, the “equal” end of the stick that

blacks received would prove to be substandard on nearly every

level.  Think about these laws then contrast them to this broken

quote that “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the

manhood of every one of its members… Society is a joint-stock

company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of

his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and

culture of the eater”(Emmerson 3). To take a step back into the

film mentioned earlier the Sheriff of the film said “theres two

types of culture down here, the white culture and the black

culture”. If you examine these two notions the blacks born into

the states during the Jim Crow era essentially aren’t born into

American culture but cheated into the unfair black culture by

default just for being in society. The Jim Crow laws speak to

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the many issues we face in present society. Today in 2015 they

don’t call it “Separate but Equal” but the concept is still

alive on a more economic scale. To take in one direction lets

talk about the educational system from the view that inequality

is heavy amongst the poor but it isn’t directly stated that way.

According to an analysis written by Joshua Berry, “inequality in

education caused by taxation of property values” or property tax

for short(Berry 2). This form of inequality is designed in a way

to keep the poor/uneducated in the same position by undermining

their education which limits their opportunities to those where

their educational criteria is accepted. From this standpoint the

same economic consistency will remain amongst these low income

neighborhoods due to the educational inequality. This brings me

to the famous notion that the rich will stay rich and the poor

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will stay poor. The jim crow laws that have oppressed this

country are mostly absent these days but they will always be

present in subtle ways like the way i mentioned above.

Race wasn’t the only finger that society used to point the

hand of inequality at, being a woman was more than enough reason

to be  considered unequal. During the early 1900’s women were in

a position in society where they spend their whole life growing

up for a man to marry, impregnate them, and raise kids/care for

the household. This scripted life wasn’t one that was chosen but

one that was imposed. This was essentially the shape of the

American society before the year of 1960 which would change

everything. The sexual revolution brought fourth the first ever

contraceptive for women which would forever bring American

culture in a new direction. Prior to the pill pregnancy would be

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the worst type of setback to happen to a female interested in

pursuing a career of any sort as they’d be forced to quit their

future due to the current limitations in contraception. Kids and

the “Family” oriented tradition is what the American society was

all about in the early 1900’s and the pill was an attack against

these very morales. “In 1961, only 2 percent of law degrees, 4

percent of MBAs, and 6 percent of medical degrees were conferred

on women” (Cohen 1). This shows just how few women achieved

success given the blatant handicaps and double standards society

threw their way. Despite these advances in sexual freedom and

the ability to pursue a career without worry of pregnancy, women

still to this day face the hand of inequality. “Women still

earned only 77 cents for every dollar that men earned in

2012” (Basset 1), and today in 2015 the figure hasn’t moved a

penny. Just that figure alone puts a stain on how how the

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american society pictures women, that though they are all

members of society they are still less than men.

The ideas behind self reliance weren’t weren’t intended for

all individuals as many of the couldn’t follow the many ideals

that came with being “self reliant”. The ideals mainly entail

speaking   from your heart, not conforming to the norms of

society, trust thyself. The problem is that if an african

american didn’t conform to the will of society in a slave

oppressed time period, he’d be killed. “For non-conformity the

world whips you with displeasure” and from the females

perspective in the 1900’s they won’t conform to society if they

take attempt to live the “self reliant” lifestyle. The only

group that was seemingly allowed to express individualism were

the white males.

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Here I have proved and guided you through the the struggles of

both females and african americans alike and to this day the

struggle continues. Through the constant force of oppression

upon the oppressed, obtaining self reliance for them. It poses

difficult for one to love thyself if society constantly whips

your kind with displeasure and inequality. The word “nigger”

which is used as a derogatory term for african americans should

also be used to identify women as well. Reason being is that one

thing that the american society has done consistently is prove

time and time again that women are “less than”.

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