Tough times for black patriots
For decades, African Americans have been participating in Fourth of July events. They have marched in parades, attended barbecues and cookouts, and gone to fireworks displays. Blacks joined in the celebration as fellow citizens despite their acute awareness that they did not fully enjoy all the rights of Americans. But it seems that the patient effort of blacks to obtain their full status as citizens has been frayed by the current presidential administration.
The noble language of the Declaration of Independence provided assurance that the hoped for redemption of those who had fallen would rise in status. The Declaration states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This is a promise that would be difficult to keep. Even Thomas Jefferson, who drafted that historic language, renounced its premise in his personal life. He owned a substantial number of slaves at Monticello. In fact, 26 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence were slaveholders. Nonetheless, a number of the Founding Fathers were adamantly opposed to the idea of human beings belonging to others as property.
In fact John Adams, the second U.S. president, was so influenced by the Declaration of Independence that he included as a provision in the Massachusetts State Constitution that all men are created equal. This language in the nation’s first state constitution in 1780 provided the legal basis for outlawing slavery in Massachusetts. Then the state became the national headquarters for the anti-slavery movement.
While many Massachusetts residents found slavery to be morally repugnant, they did not always view blacks as being fully equal. That is the basis for the Civil Rights Movement following the 13th Amendment. The racial conflict produced some victories to induce blacks to believe they would ultimately be fully embraced by whites as fellow citizens.
The 14th Amendment in 1868 provided equal protection to everyone regardless of race and granted citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. However, the U.S. Supreme Court used its power to keep blacks in their place. One of the most damaging rulings was Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that authorized segregation (separate but equal) in 1896. That rule lasted for 58 years.
President Lyndon B. Johnson dealt an almost fatal blow to racial inequality with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But what has now emerged is shocking. Bigots are willing to sacrifice their own benefits in order to maintain the delusion of white racial supremacy. One of the best examples of this syndrome is the opposition to a national health plan for everyone when it was identified as Obamacare.
Unfortunately, working class bigots have chosen as their champion a president who is a perpetual liar, does not believe in the principal that no man is above the law, uses public office to generate personal wealth, alienates the nation’s allies while cultivating alliances with perennial enemies, and is indifferent about the environmental destruction of the planet.
Is it any wonder that blacks now have less of a connection with America when such a national leader is at the helm?