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3.12 Balancing Minority and Majority Rights

5 min readfebruary 7, 2023

Annika Tekumulla

Annika Tekumulla

Riya Patel

Riya Patel


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Introduction

Balancing minority and majority rights refers to the process of reconciling conflicting rights and interests between individuals or groups in a society. This can involve striking a balance between protecting the rights of minority groups, such as ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities, and those of the majority population. This can be a complex and challenging task, as it often involves making trade-offs and finding compromises between competing interests. A key principle in this process is to ensure that everyone's rights are respected and protected, regardless of their background or identity.

Key Vocabulary

  • Minority rights: The rights and protections afforded to individuals or groups that make up a smaller proportion of a society, such as ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities.
  • Majority rights: The rights and protections afforded to individuals or groups that make up a larger proportion of a society.
  • Reconciliation: The process of resolving conflicts and finding common ground between opposing groups.
  • Trade-off: A compromise or exchange of one thing for another in order to resolve a conflict.
  • Principle: A fundamental truth or belief that serves as the foundation for a system of values or actions.
  • Respect: Recognition and consideration of the worth or value of something or someone.
  • Protection: The act of preserving or safeguarding something or someone from harm or loss.
  • Background: The experiences, knowledge, and circumstances that shape a person's identity and perspective.
  • Identity: The characteristics, beliefs, and values that define a person as an individual.

Key Questions

  • What are the specific rights and interests of minority groups and the majority population?
  • How do these rights and interests come into conflict with one another?
  • What are the consequences of not balancing minority and majority rights?
  • What are the principles and values that should guide the process of balancing minority and majority rights?
  • What trade-offs and compromises can be made to reconcile conflicting rights and interests?
  • How can the rights of both minority groups and the majority population be protected and respected?
  • What role do laws, institutions, and policies play in balancing minority and majority rights?
  • How can the perspectives and experiences of both minority groups and the majority population be taken into account when balancing their rights?
  • How can stakeholders and decision-makers ensure that everyone's rights are respected and protected, regardless of their background or identity?

Cases to Know

Here are a few notable cases related to the balancing of minority and majority rights:
  1. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  2. Loving v. Virginia (1967)
  3. United States v. Korematsu (1944)
  4. Reitman v. Mulkey (1967)
  5. Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
  6. R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. (1985)

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1954. The case challenged the constitutionality of segregation in public schools, specifically in Topeka, Kansas. The Court ruled that segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal treatment under the law to all citizens.
In its decision, the Court held that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" and that segregation had a detrimental effect on African American students, stifling their educational opportunities and damaging their self-esteem. The Brown v. Board of Education decision was a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement and marked the beginning of the end of segregation in the United States. The case remains one of the most significant in American history, as it set the stage for further legal battles against segregation and other forms of discrimination.

Shaw v. Reno (1993)

Shaw v. Reno was a Supreme Court case decided in 1993. The case dealt with the issue of redistricting and the creation of majority-minority districts, specifically in North Carolina. A group of white voters challenged the state's creation of a predominantly African-American district, claiming that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court held that the district's oddly-shaped boundary and lack of a logical basis other than the racial makeup of its voters made it an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The Court held that redistricting plans that are so highly gerrymandered on the basis of race must be subject to close judicial scrutiny and that such plans may be invalid if they are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.
Shaw v. Reno placed limits on the ability of states to create majority-minority districts and was seen as a setback for minority representation in government. The case remains significant as it has shaped the way courts interpret the constitutionality of redistricting plans and the role of race in the redistricting process.

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) 

Plessy v. Ferguson was a Supreme Court case decided in 1896. The case dealt with the constitutionality of segregation in public places, specifically regarding a Louisiana law that required separate railway cars for African Americans and whites. Homer Plessy, who was 7/8 white and 1/8 black, refused to move to a segregated railway car designated for African Americans and was arrested.
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of segregation as long as the separate facilities were equal in quality, ruling that the "separate but equal" doctrine did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision sanctioned segregation in public places across the United States and was seen as a major setback for the Civil Rights Movement. The "separate but equal" doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson remained the law of the land for nearly 60 years, until it was finally overturned by the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Plessy v. Ferguson remains a significant case in American legal history, as it established the constitutional basis for segregation in the United States and served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. The case is now widely discredited and seen as a stain on the American legal system.

Summary

In summary, the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution and its role in protecting or restricting minority rights can change based on its composition and the prevailing political and social views of the time. The Court's decisions, such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, show how its views on segregation and the protection of civil rights have evolved. The political affiliation of the appointing president also plays a role in shaping the Court's ideology and decisions.

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