There are barriers that African Americans have had difficulty overcoming.
Progress has been mixed for elected officials.
In 2001, there were more than nine thousand black elected officials in the United States, in posts ranging from local education and law enforcement jobs to the U.S. Congress.
The number of African Americans at local levels of government is higher than at the state level.
The task of black candidates gets harder as the constituency grows.
There were over 500 black mayors in 2016 but no African American governors.
As of this writing, two African American gubernatorial candidates are facing very thin deficits in their races.
There were three black senators in the 116th Congress, and more than 50 members of the House of Representatives were black.
Affirmative action is a controversial policy in America.
Opinion polls show support for the ideals behind affirmative action, but not if it is perceived to be giving minorities preferential treatment.
In 1996, voters in California declared affirmative action illegal, and in 1998 voters in Washington did the same.
In 2006 Michigan voted to ban affirmative action in the state's public colleges and government contracting, and in 2008 affirmative action was on the ballot in Colorado and Nebraska.
In Nebraska, the ban passed with 58 percent of the vote, but it was defeated in Colorado.
In 2010 Arizona passed a constitutional ban on affirmative action programs.
A number of cases have come before the federal courts and, in general, while respecting that universities seek diverse student bodies, the courts have taken the notion that race is a suspect classification to mean that any laws treating people differently according to race must be given strict scrutiny.
Even though strict scrutiny has traditionally been used to support the rights of racial minorities, it can also preclude laws that give them special treatment or preferences, even if those preferences are meant to create more equality.
The courts hold the laws to a higher standard and that doesn't mean they throw them out.
A federal district court judge stated in a 2001 case that all racial distinctions are inherently suspect and presumptively invalid.
A federal appeals court ruled that the University of Georgia's affirmative action policy was unconstitutional.
Although a university can strive to achieve a diverse student body, race could not be the only factor used to define diversity.
Students of American politics should take the issues raised by the affirmative action debate seriously.
The debate cannot be reduced to questions of racism and bigotry.
Two different images of what America should be about are at stake.
On the other side is a vision of an America where all citizens are treated the same and where discrimination is past.
This view, shared by many minorities as well as many white Americans, argues that providing a set of lower standards for some groups is not fair.
The American Civil Rights Institute is a strong opponent of affirmative action and is led by a former member of the University of California Board of regents.
We rise to the occasion when the bar is raised.
In a society with equal standards for all, black students will do that.
Affirmative action programs have made a difference in equalizing chances in society, and although they are meant to be temporary, their work is not done.
The old patterns of behavior can only be changed by conscious effort, according to these advocates.
Pause and review Who, What, How All Americans have had a great deal at stake in the civil rights movement.
Blacks have had a hard time being recognized as American citizens and exercising their rights.
They lacked economic and social power.
The traditional power structure in both the South and the North would be upset by recognizing the rights of those who fought for them.
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments granted formal citizenship rights to African Americans, which should have changed the rules of American politics to allow blacks to enter the political world on an equal footing with whites.
When Congress and the courts failed to enforce the Reconstruction amendments, southern blacks were at the mercy of state and local laws for nearly a century.
The de jure discrimination that had followed the Civil War was finally eliminated by a combination of tactics.
They weren't very effective in remedying the discrimination that persisted in the North.
Affirmative action is controversial with procedure-loving Americans, which is why efforts to get rid of de facto discrimination involve substantive remedies.
Increased political rights are not easily translated into equal economic and social power because of the remnants of past discrimination.
Tammy Duckworth's steel and titanium legs are a sign of strength, her wheel chair is a badge of honor.
This woman, who followed her father and a long line of relatives into the military was willing to give her life for her country, but she doesn't look at November 12 as a day of self-pity.
Today is my alive day, the anniversary of the day I almost died but didn't.
Fourteen years ago, on this day, a rocket propelled grenade tore through the cockpit of the helicopter I was flying over Iraq, taking my legs and partial use of my right arm.
My friends risked their lives and refused to leave me behind.
I think about what they did for me and what I can do to repay them.