Thomas Jefferson’s preamble to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most beautiful sentences ever written, is a blatant lie.
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.
False. Despicably false.
Jefferson’s, nay, all fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, and by concatenation all Americans, declaration, “all men are created equal,” is as bold faced a deception as ever a politician wrote. And this lie has nothing to do with individual skills, education or temerity. “All Men” only applied if one was Caucasian, a landowner and a Christian. If one failed to achieve the benchmark of WPCM, white, propertied, Christian male, one did not reap the benefits that Jefferson declared unalienable and God-given. Jew or Muhammadan? “Unalienable” be damned! Renter or serf? Certainly, a step up from the heathen but absolutely not entitled to the same rights as a white, propertied, Christian, male.
Indigenous inhabitants had no rights. And if one were a black man? His status could be lowered to that of property, as was that of his progeny in perpetuity. “Equality” was a gentlemen club prerogative and those not possessing the four basic requirements of membership need not apply.
Carl Linnaeus’ introduction of the pseudo-scientific term, “Race,” to delineate and hierarchize among humans based on minor differences that occur between and among homo-sapiens, appeared in 1758 and blazed across the world just as Haley’s comet did. “Scientific” underpinnings for ridiculous, self-serving lies migrated from Europe to the colonies just in time to provide the New World oligarchs with justification for a Declaration that condemned discrimination just as it promoted it.
From our inception with the Roanoke colony in 1587, the rights one is entitled to in what became the U.S. of A. has been dictated by skin color. In the two centuries between Roanoke and the launch of our Grand Experiment in Democracy the notion that skin color dictated inclusion or exclusion from the Family of Man gained firmer footing among those of European descent. There is no denying that equality was dictated on having a penis and being white in 1776 and it still is today.
To deny that huge strides forward in inclusion and equality have been made since the United States was recognized as a nation in 1783 would be nearly as absurd as Linnaeus’ contention that physical differences constitutes different races of humans, and that these races are subject to hierarchization. Progress, sweet, slow, progress, has and is advancing. It advances against the weight of lies told for centuries, against Biblical “justification” for chattel slavery based on skin color and against we Caucasians who just can’t seem to see how unjust and inequitable our country is.
It advances, and as it advances it is used as a tool to divide and conquer our nation, a tool by individuals and political parties hell-bent on power, who are more than willing to use fear, prejudice and deceit to gain dominance. Deceit that is used both by Republican and Democrat in that all important, endless game of control.
Let’s explore some of the truths and myths about race, equality and race relations that are foundations of our dysfunction.
Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
Well sure he was, sort of. Lincoln was a Whig until the dissolution of the Whig party in 1854, the same year that Lincoln publicly declared his opposition to the extension of slavery. A man without a party, Lincoln latched onto the new Republican party as his best available fit. To declare or imply that the Republican Party of 1860 is the same as the Republican Party of 2017 is as absurd as saying that the United States of 1860 is the same as the United States of 2017. Just as this comparison is false, so too is the suggestion that Southern Democratic presidential hopeful John Breckenridge’s or Northern Democratic vice-presidential candidate Stephen Douglas’ party is the same as modern Democrats: Two patently false pretenses.
Upon his election Lincoln’s opposition to the extension of slavery caused southern states to secede. Secession led to revolt and, while fighting to retain the Union, Lincoln freed the slaves held in territories in rebellion against the Union. Lincoln freed slaves in lands that were not under his control. His edict during the war was as enforceable as a Jefferson Davis command to Union soldiers to lay down their arms.
However, in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was promoted by the Republicans in 1864, ended legal slavery in the USA. This was a huge step forward in the fight for equality but ending slavery was most definitely not a part of the 1860 Republican Platform, a platform which only held provisions precluding the expansion of slavery, not ending it.
The Ku Klux Klan and the Democratic Party
Richard R. Reed, Frank O. McCord, John C. Lester, J. Calvin Jones, John B. Kennedy and James R. Crowe founded the Klan directly following the end of the Civil War. From its inception, Southern Democrats worked hand in hand with the Klan to oppress and terrorize people of color. Extreme violence and terror were tools used by the Klan, and by extension, Southern Democrats.
For one-hundred years the Democratic Party was the greater of two evils regarding race relations and the suppression of equality. It wasn’t that things were so good under Republican controlled northern states, rather it was that things were so bad down in the Democratic controlled south.
In 1954, a brick fell from the wall of inequality with SCOTUS case Brown v. Board of Education. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Republican president since 1928, held our nation’s highest office when the first brick fell, and the flow of change increased from a slow trickle. Many people in northern states became aware of conditions “down there” and wanted sweeping changes to occur. The magnifying glass that was held to The South allowed those in the north to understand the magnitude of disparity and degradation that black Southerners underwent daily, all while conveniently feeling superior for the civilized and egalitarian Northern society.
The decade between 1954 and 1964 brought sweeping change to American society. Large swaths of Democrats were vehemently resistant to this change and Southern states had violent repressive confrontation after violent repressive confrontation as the powers that be fought to retain control. Northern Republicans used the whip of public anger to promote themselves as the party of equality. And Republicans were just that, so long as the changes occurred Down There. It took mounting violence along with a tsunami of public anger to turn the tide and convince President Lyndon Baines Johnson, aka LBJ, a Texas Democrat, to step up and promote equality as a plank of the Democratic party’s platform.
Regardless of whether Democrats made the shift toward equality for voter share or decency, Democrats began moving from racial oppressor to explicit user of race as a political tool, the result being a subsequent increase in the leveling of the racial playing field in the USA. Old School, anti-equality Democratic Party leaders, such as George Wallace, Harry F. Byrd, Lester Maddox, Strom Thurmond and Mike Mansfield who refused to acknowledge the need for reform fought against equality, but the party called for change.
With the easing of segregation and an advancing of equality, many rank-and-file Southern Democrats abandoned their party. It didn’t take long for the Jim Crowers of the South to gravitate to the Republican Party which, in what one can only assume was a cynical bid to garner power over principle, soon found itself playing the role of the anti-equality party.
Same equals equal.
For over one-hundred years the USA held forth the lie that, “Separate but equal,” was truthful. Racial segregation was accompanied by substandard facilities for non-whites, especially blacks, and the victims of institutional racism, a program that was designed to, “Keep folk in their places,” were blamed for being inadequately educated and therefor suffering the myriad economic hardships that accompany ignorance. “Separate but equal” was outlawed in 1964 but changes to “Separate but equal” were fought tooth and nail. Outlawing “Separate but equal” did not end it nor did the century long harvest of human wheat sown on rock magically find itself in lush, fertile soil overnight because of The Civil Rights Act.
Equally important to access to equal education is the simple concept that same does not equal equal. The concept that treating all people the same means they are treated equally negates the reason for a fire department. If we apply the “Same equals equal” rule to firefighters, then we must douse all homes with water if we douse one home with water. If firefighters are sent to put out a fire at one location because it is on fire and in need of protection we consider the discriminatory actions of the firefighters fair and pragmatic. Equal service does not mean doing the same thing for all people, it means providing protection or giving people an opportunity to better themselves and this fundamental principle is especially true when those receiving a hand up are the very ones who were legally held down on American soil for four-hundred-years!
Remnants of racial inequality.
The use of minorities and immigrants as focal points of hatred and contempt is alive and well in the USA and it is a tool that has shifted from the hands of Southern Democrats into that of alt-right Republicans. There are many code words and ideas that both parties brandish about, lies, deceits and half-truths that are designed to divide and dis-inform. Below I examine some simple statistics and explore how information is misused.
White people are a minority.
Well, sure, worldwide. Whites have always been a minority of the total world population. Currently, Asians constitute 60% of the world’s inhabitants, Africans 15% and 15% of folks are of European descent. The import of the statistics matters greatly depending on to whom one is speaking. Anti-miscegenation folks sputter about heritage, a code word for covert “race-mixing” haters, while those of Klannish temperament warn about the Extinction of The White Race.
In 1980 80% of the US population was non-Hispanic white, but this number has dropped to 62%. Hispanics are the second largest demographic in the US (15%) followed by African Americans (11%.) Interestingly, only 3% of the US population describe themselves as “mixed,” a designation that likely covers a much larger proportion of US denizens.
White people total four times greater than the second largest contingent. It is only by dividing racial groups into “white” and “non-white” that the status of “minority” could possibly be considered as an imminent demographic for white people in the USA.
Household wealth and government assistance.
Household wealth, among other factors, clearly indicates that the mantra of equality in the USA is false. In 1983, median household wealth in the USA was $102,200 for whites, $6,800 for blacks and $4,000 for Latinos. Fast forward to 2008 and household wealth had risen to $161,400, $10,400 and $10,200 respectively. In 2008, the average white household had fifteen times as much wealth as did an African American household and in 2008 the gap actually increased to 15.5 times higher. The post 2008 economic downturn made the household wealth gap between whites and non-whites even larger.
Among non-urban white Americans 13.8% fall below the poverty line (9.1% urban rate), compared to 26% of non-urban Hispanics (21% urban rate) and 33% of non-urban black Americans are below the poverty line (23% urban rate).
In 2013 SNAP, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides food for people of low or no income, reported that 40.2% of food assistance recipients are white, 25.7% are black and 10.3% are Hispanic. Of course, whites constitute 62% of the US population, Hispanics 15% and blacks 11%, which means that 11% of the population receives 26% of SNAP dollars while 15% garners an additional 10%. Hispanics and whites require SNAP at very similar rates.
Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
Democrats love to point out that white Americans receive the lion’s share of SNAP dollars, a fact that is very misleading. While the contention is 100% true, the implication is that more white people are in need of assistance than non-whites and all good alt-righters need to realize that they’re hurling stones at “their own” when they call for a reduction in SNAP funds. This a ploy to use ignorance against ignorant haters, a ploy I find both disturbing and highly American. Truth has never been a highly regarded commodity in politics and in recent years our proclivity for truth has gone from tiny to nearly nonexistent. More is the shame when we feel a need to deceive in order to crusade for our positions, this lack of confidence in truth speaks volumes about our perception of our own product.
Francis Bacon declared, “Knowledge is power.” He was correct, but if knowledge is power then money is the great equalizer and when we have a country where white people are “worth” sixteen times more than blacks or Hispanics then we have a country that is not equal. The problem of wealth inequality is as complex as it is systemic and there are no easy solutions, but recognizing the inherent racism of our inherited economic system is the first step in creating a more just and equal society.
Justice is blind.
In a pig’s eye! State prisons average five times as many black Americans as they do white. Offenders such as Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin, have double the disparity at ten to one. Recent years’ statistics show African Americans being convicted for 36% of violent crimes with white Americans accounting for 60% of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault convictions. Black Americans are being convicted at a rate just over double that of white Americans but are incarcerated at a rate five times as high. The gross disparity in conviction to incarceration rate is a telling indicator of the myth of equal justice in the United States.
Police are more likely to shoot black men than they are white men.
Victims of fatal shootings by police are predominately white. The most simplistic model would tell us that 62% of fatal shootings by police should be white people, after all, if death at police hands was indiscriminate, then the percentages of the population should match the percentages of police shooting deaths. We know that whites make up 62% of the US population, blacks 11% and Hispanics 15%. Do the death by police shooting equal the racial percentages of the USA? Not even close.
Half of all deaths by police gunfire are white, 25% black and 18% Hispanic. To quantify the disparity, I took the percentage of fatal police shootings and divided by percentage of population by skin color. If shootings were unrelated to skin color, then each group would receive a score of 1.0. The higher the numerical score the greater the proportion of being likely to be killed by cop. Whites, with a score of .81, are less likely to be victims of fatal police shootings than Hispanics who score 1.64 and much less than blacks who score 2.72. Statistics show that blacks are three and one third times more likely to be shot dead by police than are whites.
Interpretation, bias and intangibles.
While the above analysis of police fatal shooting is accurate, truthful and horrifying it is also, as stated, a very simplistic model. We have established that blacks are convicted for 36% of violent crimes in the US while whites are convicted for 60%. Using the same formula that showed the gross disparity by race of death by police shooting, i.e., dividing violent crime conviction percentage by percentage of population by skin color, we find that whites have a score of .97 while blacks get a score of 3.27. Blacks are 3.37 times more likely to be incarcerated for a violent offense than are whites.
It is fair to argue that people who engage in violent crimes are more likely to be killed by police. Fair, accurate, simplistic and highly incomplete. Conviction rates are inversely proportionate to quality legal representation. Whites, with a median household worth 15.5 times higher than blacks, are far more likely to retain a competent lawyer, one who is paid enough to be able to take the time to concentrate on a client’s needs, than are blacks or Hispanics. Justice is not blind, police are not color blind and learned, subconscious bias colors everything that we do.
The recent rash of verified police killings of unarmed black men who were not engaged in crimes of any sort should give everyone ample evidence to see that Jefferson’s statement, “…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,” is a myth far more than it is a reality. That equality is a dream worth pursuing far more than it is an established fact.