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E. Earl Parson and Monique McLaughlin

E. Earl Parson and Monique McLaughlin, Citizenship in Name Only: the Coloring of Democracy While Redefining Rights, Liberties and Self Determination for the 21st Century, 3 Columbia Journal of Race and Law 103 (2013) (140 Footnotes)

[The African] ... was regarded and owned in every State in the Union as property merely, and as such was not and could not be a party or an actor, much less a peer in any compact or form of government established by the States or the United States .... [S]o far as rights and immunities appertaining to citizens have been defined and secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, the African race is not and never was recognized either by the language or purposes of the former ....
Justice Daniel, Concurring Opinion
Dred Scott v. Sandford

Currently, there is an explosion of interest in the concept of citizenship. This renewed theoretical focus was precipitated by political events, voter ID statutes, jury obstruction and significant minority participation during the last presidential campaign. However, the definition of “full citizenship” as it relates to people of color, particularly African Americans, has been a focus of controversy since the enactment of the U.S. Constitution, which did not recognize African Americans as “citizens.” Do African Americans enjoy full citizenship status or is it in name only? More importantly, is their full citizenship status based on some legal invitation, or common assumptions and opinions of the majority? This Essay will address the question, how do we advance racial justice while addressing racial setbacks in a depressed economic environment?

If America does not view African Americans as full citizens, then efforts to exercise those citizenship rights become problematic. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt full citizenship encompassed two important concepts: 1) the right to vote, and 2) the right to be a full participant in the judicial process, such as the right to serve on a jury. Only United States citizens can exercise these two privileges, privileges that are also a means to effectuate real change for African Americans in politics, the economy and our society.

Throughout history, racial bias has affected the economic and political standing of African Americans, particularly through denial of the right to vote and exclusion from the jury process. The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the exclusion of people of color from the jury and voting polls is unconstitutional, and more importantly, undermines our judicial and political system.

This Essay analyzes from both a historical and modern day perspective how current race neutral voting laws, modern pretextual peremptory challenges, and exclusion tactics have and will continue to affect African Americans and their communities in the twenty-first century. This comparative analysis will show how deeply rooted voting suppression tactics and jury obstruction methods are still prevalent in our society, and how, if not properly addressed and resolved, they will retard and hinder the African American community's continued effort for full citizenship participation. This Essay will address full citizenship from these two perspectives: the concept of voting and its impact on participation in the jury process.