Discussing discrimination and national security

Madeline Bruce, Editor-in-Chief

As I am going to law school in the fall, I figured that it would be helpful to take a law-related class, since I’ve only taken one at Gannon so far. So, I enrolled in a constitutional law class this semester.

In this class, we talk about – you guessed it – constitutional law and cases that involve it. This type of law deals with the interpretation and implementation of the Constitution, including the document’s 27 amendments.

Recently, we discussed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, a reconstruction amendment that helped solidify the 13th Amendment after the Civil War.

Part of this amendment is the Equal Protection Clause, which requires that all state laws must govern impartially and not draw distinctions based on individual differences that are irrelevant to the law at hand.

However, there can be exceptions to this, and that is where 14th Amendment standards come in.

These standards rank in three tiers, and they basically state that the government can discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, gender, sexuality, etc., if it helps some form of state interest. The language is important here, as the more strict standard requires that the discriminatory practice or legislation must be necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.

After learning about this, I am torn on what to think about it. The social justice advocate in me wants to say that the government shouldn’t be allowed any exceptions when it comes to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, sexuality, etc.

The other part of me thinks that, under extreme circumstances when national security is at stake, it can be necessary to enact discriminatory legislation and practices.

However, the reality is that these can be detrimental to the lives of countless people living in this country. Take, for example, Executive Order 9066. President Franklin Roosevelt issued this in 1942 and required that all people deemed a “threat” to national security from the West Coast relocate to internment camps.

Those “threats” to national security were Japanese Americans, some of them immigrants and some of them American citizens. Regardless of their citizenship status, 120,000 people were forced to relocate to internment camps surrounded by barbed wire with barracks and communal eating areas, very different from the homes they had created for themselves.

To me, national security is important, but the livelihood of the people is even more so.

Yes, national security impacts the livelihood of the people. However, discriminatory legislation like Executive Order 9066 can arguably impact the livelihood of the people in a more detrimental manner.

To me, discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, gender, sexuality or any other difference is never acceptable. There is no exception for the unequal, unjust treatment of a country’s citizens and residents.

The people are and should be the priority of every nation. Everything else should be secondary.

Madeline Bruce

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