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The last words of the United States’ pledge of allegiance claim liberty and justice for all. Unfortunately, it has turned into “with liberty and justice for some.”

There has always been discrimination in our nation. Because of human habit, it is almost impossible to completely eradicate the feelings of bias or prejudice based on race or creed. It is simply something we will have to live with. However, the United States was founded on the ideals of freedom and equality and to not legally allow these two ideals to be realized, we are failing our forefathers.

For example, as William Henry III illustrates in his essay, “Beyond the Melting Pot,” our nation is currently run by a white government that is serving multi-racial constituents. One in four Americans currently define themselves as being Hispanic. However, there are only 24 out of 535 members of Congress that are Hispanic. As well, African Americans make up an extremely small percentage of congress. Can we truly believe that these white men in business suits are in touch with their Hispanic, African American and other minority citizens and those citizens’ needs?

John Hope Franklin, author of “Ethnicity in American Life: The Historical Perspective” mentions that the United States is the only country in which one can find so many people of different cultural, racial, religious, and national backgrounds in its population. But how many of these same cultural, racial, and religious differences show up in our government? Catholics make up 29 percent of our congress currently with 152 members in the House and Senate. There are only 37 Jewish members of Congress. There are no Buddhists or Hindus sitting in Congress.

This is not to say that Hispanics or Jews or any other group is specifically discriminated against by our government. However, it is hard to believe that these groups are receiving a full slice of the American pie like Caucasians are, because these groups are not adequately represented in our government.

Can we trace this problem back to education? All of the current members of Congress have a college education and most come from affluent backgrounds. It is a well known fact that the majority of minorities in the United States have been raised in and around urban communities. Typically, urban-America is not well known for its outstanding education systems, its high school graduation rates, or its college education levels. In fact, the majority of students who actually do stick around to finish high school never make it to college due to lack of funds.

Many are faced with the need to leave school and join the work force in order to support their families. According to “Decloaking Class” by Janet Zandy, there are more first generation minority and lower-class college students now than ever before. However, studies also show that there are more lower class students dropping out currently as well. These students need to bring home a paycheck every week in order to pay their mother’s rent or buy food their younger brothers and sisters, so they simply disregard their desire for an education and do what they feel they need to do. In 1999, only 66.7 percent of all college students coming from an urban high school started and completed a college degree (associates or bachelors) compared to 85.9 of suburban or rural students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

We cannot expect that a group of people can rise up and take the challenge of government without the education to support it. If the United States is truly going to live up to the ideal of “with liberty and justice for all” we need to begin training, educating, and supporting minorities so that they can take their place in our government.

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