Limitations Imposed on African Americans


American society has been considered a democratic society with support of human rights, social and political freedoms, and national equality of all citizens. However, throughout history, there have been numerous facts which prove that despite the claims of democracy within modern American societal norms, there has been a special attitude towards African Americans, which lies firmly with its roots in the American history.

There is no doubt that despite the fact that African Americans are citizens of the United States and have obtained the same rights and freedoms as Caucasian Americans, there is still a degree of racial discrimination towards the African American people within the modern American society.

There is a vast amount of literature about the African American discrimination. The politically correct term for discrimination is ‘limitations’. The fact that there are limitations imposed on African Americans within the United States has been evidenced by numerous facts. In relation to this, the topic of this research paper is analysis and exploration of this evidence. The thesis of this paper is the application of the norms that address African Americans and their position in the modern American society is one of the methods for imposing more limitations on the social behaviors of African Americans as a minority group.

The research paper explores the historical background of the limitations imposed on African Americans. It focuses on the Civil War as a watershed in elimination of discrimination towards African Americans and their freedom from slavery. However, from the available sources it has become clear that the Civil War did not take into account multiple social factors which are explored further in the paper. The conclusion provides an insight into the problem and how it is addressed in terms of the American democratic values. The research paper is based on the pertinent research literature and social science analysis.

Historical background

The status of African Americans in the United States has been changing together with the historic events within the country. The whole U.S. history is ripe with facts and data about African Americans and their position in the developing American society. The traditional belief that African Americans have always been mistreated throughout the history of the United States is false and not proven by the evidence. At the same time, the evolvement of discrimination lies in those historic events which have to be analyzed thoroughly and explored in the context of social limitations caused by the long-lasting discrimination of African American people in the United States.

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African Americans made lots of efforts that stemmed from their hopes for freedom to support Lincoln in his wish to abolish slavery. They believed in Lincoln’s exceptional role at the end of Civil War. Many families of African American people have placed their hopes within the newly created legislation of the country. However, this freedom has not become easy for the African American people in the American society.

According to Horton, “there were several early indications that the federal government did not consider free blacks full citizens” (1). One of the reasons was that the Constitution was not intended for the African American people but rather aimed at managing social roles after the Civil War. Despite the fact that the generations of African Americans have suffered from both Revolution and the Civil War, and despite the fact that African Americans hoped for the positive changes after the Constitution had been accepted, the federal government was not ready to give all freedoms of citizenship to African Americans.

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The founders of Constitution were ready to address African Americans and include their status in the newly accepted format of state governance. At the same time, “the post-war national militia excluded blacks and early naturalization laws limited the process to white aliens” (Horton 1). Therefore, Constitution of the United States became the first legal form of limitation for African Americans.

One of the key considerations that became the limitations for the African American people in the society was the right to vote together with European Americans. While the Civil War brought major changes to African Americans, in many states they soon lost their rights. Ironically, Horton notes, those were the states where they could vote before.

According to Horton, “Afro-American political participation in states where it was allowed lent legitimacy to the claim of free black citizenship” (Horton 2). Therefore, the citizenship was not the only question for African Americans at that time. They were concerned about the acceptance of their freedom on the state level across all U.S. states. The problem was that while some states accepted the black citizenship, others were strongly against it. That was one of the reasons why the problem remained unsolved for many years since the end of Civil War and since the adoption of Constitution in the early nineteenth century.

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The solution to the problem came with the help of the judicial system of the United States. As Horton further notes, “northern blacks on the eve of the Revolution knew well the rhetoric and the ideals of American liberty, and they used the instruments of democracy to communicate their requests to governmental authority” (3). Having chosen this method, they saw the result come soon and already at the end of the century, first African Americans were able to receive American citizenship, which guaranteed all the rights and freedoms of the American people. This was the time when the historical limitations imposed on African Americans ended.

However, the history of the United States of America did not bring the necessary relief to African Americans in terms of their social roles. For many years there has been racial discrimination in the country. However, that racial discrimination, as proposed by Kimbrough, was dressed in the idea of measures directed towards several limitations of newly accepted citizens such as African Americans. In reality, those policies only served to restrict African Americans and had been set and created for them on purpose.

Modern society limitations

Modern society of the United States of America is a so-called ‘melting pot’ with many minorities co-existing in a culturally diverse environment. However, if European Americans who come from European culture are accepted to the American society without any limitations imposed on them at work and in other aspects of social life, African Americans tend to suffer from various forms of discrimination typical in the modern world. These forms are commonly called ‘limitations’ and this is how they fulfill their role of limiting the citizenship rights and freedoms of the African American people within the modern American society.

There are a vast number of institutional limitations created for African Americans. However, examination of all of these limitations requires further detailed research analysis. This research paper only covers the main topics associated with African Americans’ limitation in the society.

There are currently many problems caused by the social limitations imposed on the African Americans in the modern American society. Some of these limitations have factual background and reasoning, while others are simply the product of non-acceptance of the African American position in the society.

Probably the major problem which has grown from traditional discrimination into limitation is that of workplace for African Americans. As Chima and Wharton note in their article, “despite laws against racial discriminatory practices in the workplace, African Americans still encounter a series of unique problems from individual actions and organizational policies and practices” (43).

The problem is not viable as the African Americans get the jobs and act as part of the active working population. However, the problem is evident when the scope of jobs is analyzed. African Americans are seldom accepted for middle management positions and almost never – for senior management (Kimbrough). This is also true due to the fact that the African Americans are not interested in entering universities. Degree is not needed for them, because they know about the limitations in terms of their future career and prefer not to waste time and earn money since their high school years.

This problem results in another important issue for the United States’ modern society. Due to limitations on workplace, African Americans get jobs with low salaries and become active members of gangs of robbers, drug dealers, and criminals. National Research Council reports that there is a low motivation for career among African American children. However, they are very likely to follow their brothers from the neighborhood who rarely serve as fine examples of citizenship and social behavior.

The problem of the limited nature of social roles offered to the African Americans in the modern society in the United States also lies in the fact that the criminal rate of these people is higher than of the rest of U.S. minorities. However, the negative meaning of criminal reports can be related to the underlying reason of African Americans’ misconduct. This is, above all, discrimination of African Americans in the United States. According to the report by Mauer and Huling released almost 20 years ago, “almost one in four (23%) African American males in the age group 20-29 was under some form of criminal justice supervision - in prison or jail, on probation or parole” (1).

Apart from the fact that there is workplace discrimination and other numerous society limitations for African Americans, there are also structural sources of discrimination. Chima and Wharton imply that “in addition to barriers from individual and organizational discrimination, structural discriminatory practices that disadvantage African Americans are readily accepted aspects of everyday behavior in the United States” (46). Even though African Americans have already gained their freedoms and rights within the United States, there is still a high degree of subordination in all institutions that African American citizens face daily during the course of their lives.


Nowadays there are attempts to classify the limitations imposed on African Americans within the modern American society. However, the importance of the issue does not allow tackling the problems separately. The effort of the government that tries to solve the issue in the recent decades only results in such measures as The Affordable Care Act (“The Affordable Care Act Helps African Americans”). Undoubtedly, such measures are necessary within the existing context of African American limitations in the modern society. However, these measures do not bring the necessary results. They only show a general trend or orientation. In other words, the demonstrate what has been done towards accepting the African American citizens on the same social level as European Americans and other minorities that inhabit the United States.

It is also obvious that due to the fact that the American society is set to execute democratic values, the belief system should not change towards the African Americans. Therefore, the proposed model of discrimination is transformed into social limitations that govern the role of African Americans and demonstrate their position in the society. Many researchers see this as the way out of the problem when the government refuses to address it properly and within the given time period (Nunnally; Treadwell, Xanthos and Holden).

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