Race 2012, Rewrite

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away, against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world. To yourself, as the faithful advocate of the Union, I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect.

The Fire Bell in the Night, Monticello April 20, 1820

Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes

Thomas Jefferson, in his letter was talking about the Missouri Compromise that allowed entry of a new state into the Union as a Slave State, something Jefferson was vehemently opposed to. In fact as early as 1787 the issue of Slavery was discussed by the nation’s founders as one that would ultimately destroy the new Republic. Though many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, there was a firm belief the nation could not for long support the buying and selling of human chattel and remain on the right side of history.

During the convention, on June 6 James Madison first raised the issue of Slavery, despite being a slave owner himself like many others he abhorred the practice of the slave trade and wanted to see it ended. His first comment during the convention were;

“that we have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”

His feelings were echoed by others, in the end the compromised language of Section 9 is what was agreed to. The fear expressed by many of the signers of the Constitution is Twenty years was a long time for mischief to be gotten up to, they were right of course, slavery spread instead of ending and before those twenty years were up, though importation became illegal in 1808 by then America could well supply its own. What we ended up with was a compromise in Section 9 Article 1 of the Constitution:

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

Our history of xenophobia; our fear of other has remained a cornerstone of legislative actions though we try to whitewash this.

Dredd Scott
Wikipedia

Slavery is a terrible stain, eventually leading to the Dredd Scott decision, ultimately giving heft to Reconstruction,
Jim Crow and legal Segregation; decades of Separate and Unequal. The framework of Dredd Scott set the standard for other equally
terrible actions by our government and jingoistic acts of our people.

Let us look for a minute at some of the other terrible stains and what they meant;

Ongoing – Decimation of the Native Tribes through broken treaties, acts of aggression, intentional infection, starvation and ongoing poverty.

1882 – Chinese immigration explodes spurred by the California Gold Rush and results in the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Exclusion Act restricts further immigration and prevents those individuals already in the US from becoming Citizens, ever. The Chinese immigrant was so hated this Act remained in place until 1943.

Mochida family awaiting evacuation all tagged to keep them together
Wikipedia

1942 – Japanese Internment of approximately 110,000 United States citizens of Japanese descent. Racial prejudice was the primary fuel of the Japanese Internment, not any real acts of treason, General DeWitt who was in charge of Internment repeatedly told newspapers “A Jap is a Jap”.

1876 – 1965 Jim Crow, is there anything that speaks the heart of this nations underlying racial conscious more than nearly one hundred years of laws designed to strip equality

White Trade Only, Lancaster, Ohio
Wikipedia

from an entire group of citizens? We think of Jim Crow as something that was a southern problem and indeed the south was open in their racial segregation, but nowhere in this nation were we truly free of Jim Crow thinking only the outward symbolism might not have been so blatant.

2001 – Islamic Backlash; the attack of 9/11 has created wave after wave of legislation at state levels banning Sharia Law from our justice system, which has never been a threat. While the attack by a group of Islamic Fundamentalist on 9/11 was both terrible and heartbreaking, like Pearl Harbor it was not conducted by US Citizens. We have chosen, even those elected officials who should be more restrained in their language, instead  to fan the flames of religious and racial hate. Rather than condemning religious and racial intolerance we fall in line behind the Christian minister, burning the Quran on the front lawn of his church and the Congresswoman calling for an investigation of an aide to the Secretary of State because she is a practicing Muslim.

I would like to think these are not pernicious attacks made out of ignorance, I know better. These like every other example are simply more of the same, more vitriol made by ignorant and fearful people trying to keep their piece of the rock safe from ‘other’.

My personal opinion is a nation that can justify the enslavement of a people based entirely on the color of their skin is able to justify any other evil. A nation that sits in church and listens to their minister rail against ‘other’, as this nation continues to do, is capable of any evil. We embrace hate though we don’t recognize it in ourselves. We wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-righteousness and flag pins, point our fingers at the other side and call names, ‘Progressive Scum’, ‘Socialist’ and ‘Feminist’ are my personal favorites.

We allow Ministers of the Word of Christ to fill our airwaves with Hate and Lies, we nod our heads and say ‘Amen Brother’, when they tell us Homosexuals, Muslims and sometimes women are not of the same quality of human being as ‘the rest of us’ and are sometimes even deserving of death. We vote to strip entire groups of our fellow citizens of their civil rights and we smile as we leave the voting booth, convinced we have done the right thing, we are on the side of God, Mom and Apple Pie.

We now have the book ends, over one hundred fifty years apart of Dredd Scott and Citizen United, one confirmed human beings as property with no rights the other confirmed corporations as people with greater rights than some of our own citizens.

Bookends of the Argument over 150 years apart.

Post Racial America? Please spare me the rhetoric, we aren’t even close. We haven’t embraced the truth of our past as we attempt to rewrite it in more pleasant terms.

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:45

Comments

  1. It is interesting when you look closely at racism, bigotry and hate, religion is right there lurking in the shadows. I sometimes wonder if man just invented God as a way of separating us from them?

    Psst Sorry it took me so long to comment. I kept arriving at your home page and getting the same post. Here I was think you were a lazy blogger 😯 LOL!!!

    • That is strange indeed. Do you not see anything else down the right side? That would greatly upset me.

      Religion is always lurking, I could right tomes about that but I try not to upset the apple cart to very much.

      • Come on Valentine , just tip that apple cart a smidgen, then you too can lurk in the shadows 🙂 .

        See in the Loon’s world, my God loves everyone, despite, sex, race or religion. He/she isn’t so much worried about whether people believe in him/her but whether they grow and learn from their time here. My God wouldn’t be so arrogant as to place us here for one specific goal.,,,,,to send us to hell if we fail to believe in him/her. He/she could have saved us all the trouble by not sending us here at all.

        No, MY god loves everyone despite of all our idiosyncrasies , failures and foibles.

  2. A magnificent analysis and as you so rightly say, the basis of it all is fear… and I’ve never understood why there is so much fear in the US – like people feeling they must carry guns – when the US is the strongest nation in the world and immune to invasion or any other threats.
    Dohn’s post at Earthstonestation has alerted me to the dangers to the environment if the Republicans get in – he lists the Obama administrations measures to preserve the environment and then Mitt Romney’s threats to start oil drilling etc etc, regardless of the damage to the planet..
    He says he’s voting for his mother – mother earth, and I’m praying for her!

    Ps Jefferson – my hero until I discovered that he was so in debt when he died that all his slaves had to be sold and split up to pay his debts… unbearable to think of.

    Your post has given me so much to think about.Always a gift.

    • Jefferson was on the one hand a magnificent man, he was also a man divided from his philosophy. If you read his early writings, he understood the evils of slavery and fought hard to end it in the US, even before we became a nation. But in the end he, like most of his contemporaries could not bring himself to end it in his own life.

      We as a nation, are much like Jefferson.

  3. Val,
    I never read your posts until I am ready to sit, read and think. You never disappoint.

    I am hopeful, but really for only one reason. My family (like yours) is mixed — I have an adopted Hispanic son, an African American nephew and an Indian niece. They have children and so I am hopeful.

    At the moment, anyway.

    • I am truly afraid right now. I said to one of my brothers the other day in a FB discussion the only polling group Mitt Romney was carrying was White Males. This wasn’t something I made up, it is simply polling demographics. The backlash from this statement was terrible to see, even from some women.

      The idea that people making $50K or less can align themselves with the elite billionaires of who intend to economically rape them should they gain the White House is stunning. The GOP has done everything they can to pit one group against the other, to regain power. SCOTUS has said they are going to take on Voter Rights in the next session and if the GOP regains the White House they will wait to do this until they have at least one more ideologue on the bench, until at least one if not two Justices either retire or pass.

      I am truly afraid for this nation if the GOP regains the White House and/or retains one or both congressional houses.

      • I can’t give into the negative thinking. I’m just going to keep working hard to make sure that those things don’t happen.

        Make calls to battleground states. The calls matter. They help. And you feel like you’re helping. these are to get folks out to vote. It’s a friendly audience so you don’t have to worry about killing anybody verbally (or ending up on the news).

        It is helpful. Really.

  4. You know, I’m reading all of this and it’s a little surreal that we’re actually fighting to not go backwards. It’s crazy.There are extremists here and afar, no matter the religion. I think we’ve taken the worst of all sides and pitted one agains the other. Thereforre, it’s challenging to come to a concensus. As you say, that self-righteousness is the ultimate destroyer.

    • I tried to show there is a pattern in our behavior a sickness we have yet to shake off. While certainly the most obvious still is this nations thick line between Black and White. That line made ever more obvious by the election of our current president, it isn’t and never has been the only one. Our fear of ‘other’ isn’t even just about racial differences, it cuts across all the lines, all the differences. I truly do fear for us.

  5. As usual…an outstanding post. As I read your post I was reminded of a quote I read recently. “Bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry.”

    • I have seen that quote and could not agree more. I wonder, what happened to the teachings of The Christ? Weren’t his teachings about Love, Compassion, care for the weakest of us?

      I just wonder.

  6. In my mind, we have made progress … on the other hand, we have much further to go!

  7. Just real quick . . . I read this fascinating article in the Smithsonian that describes in exhausting detail just how poorly Jefferson treated his own slaves–damn was I disappointed to read that. Slavery was/is a freakin’ curse on our great nation!

    • I have read several articles about the differences between Jefferson’s public life and his private life at Monticello. Fascinating really, especially when you consider many of those on the plantation were Hemmings and related to him directly. I think Jefferson particularly recognized the evil of slavery, both on a personal level and as an institution but was never able to reconcile this with his personal undertakings. As with so many of us, we are human and fallible. Slavery indeed is a blight, on this nation and humanity.

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