When I think of what it means to be American the first things that comes to mind are equality and freedom. America really prides itself on being a free and equal country but how true really is that? With the writing of documents like The Bill of Rights, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Declaration of Independence, and The Equality Act equality and freedom have been a main focus. Nowadays people interpret the rights to things like freedom and equality different than when the documents were written and everybody has different opinions which is a major part of the problem today.
In The Bill of Rights the first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”(U.S. Const. amend I). A lot has changed since 1791 when The Bill of Rights were written, because of that, the details that go into the first amendment are not agreed on by everyone. In a recent survey taken by the constitution daily it shows the difference in views between teachers and students. “Teachers, at an 85 percent rate, are more likely to blame the Internet for causing “hate speech,” compared with 70 percent for students” (Bomboy). As an example, when it comes to digital news and media adults are likely to have different views than teens, because of the difference in age and their way of life. That proves that over the years people’s views change and everyone can’t agree on the same things.
The Equality Act states “all people should be free from discrimination regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation or national origin”(Sosin). Even with The Equality Act people are still discriminated against because of who they are. With the Equality Act being passed in 1974 the LGBT community is still fighting for the equality they deserve. In 2016 a gay nightclub in Orlando was shot up killing 49 people. (Ellis, Fantz, Karimi, McLaughlin). In 2013 a man was shot to death by a man who followed and harassed him yelling anti-gay slurs as he walked down the street in New York.(Lartey). In 2014 an openly gay rapper was attacked in a New York City subway station.(Crowley). Even with laws protecting LGBT and equality in general specific groups of people are still discriminated against because of who they are.
Freedom and equality are two major points that go into what it means to be an American. How free and how equal are we? Everybody has different views on rights and American values which makes it hard for every single person to feel equal. There is nothing we can do to give everybody what they want but the people and the government can help to try to make America as equal as possible.
“Bill of Rights.” Bill of Rights Institute, billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/.
Crowley, Patrick. “Rapper Jipsta Returns After Surviving Anti-Gay Hate Crime, Talks Support From RuPaul, Willam & Pandora Boxx.” Billboard, 3 Aug. 2017, www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/7889674/jipsta-rapper-returns-support-rupaul-ban2oozle.
Fantz, Ashley, et al. “49 Killed in Florida Nightclub Terror Attack.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 June 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-nightclub-shooting/index.html.
Lartey, Jamiles. “Mark Carson Murder: Jury Finds New York Man Guilty of Anti-Gay Hate Crime.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Mar. 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/09/elliot-morales-guilty-new-york-hate-crime-anti-gay-shooting-west-village.
Nico Lang, Kate Sosin. “The LGBT Equality Act Began Life in 1974. It’s Still Waiting to Be Passed.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 13 Apr. 2019, www.thedailybeast.com/the-lgbt-equality-act-began-life-in-1974-its-still-waiting-to-be-passed.
“Survey: High School Students, Teachers Differ on the First Amendment.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, constitutioncenter.org/blog/survey-high-school-students-teachers-differ-on-the-first-amendment.