Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Living In The Past

America has a dark past. We all know it. We had slavery in this country. Does it matter that virtually all countries in the world had slavery within their borders at some time historically? I guess not. But, it would be a good idea to keep that in mind before conducting yet another round of self-flagellation on the topic.

We launched this nation with the founders divided deeply on the question. Slavery was part of the economic fabric at the time of the Revolution. Many of the Framers held slaves themselves. Many argued persuasively against the practice. Some discussed how to correct the problem, even while still holding humans in bondage. Hamilton opposed slavery vigorously. Adams staunchly opposed it. Washington held many slaves but sought to provide them the most humane treatment. Jefferson, quite literally, embraced slaves while writing of plans for eventual abolition. Yet, even Jefferson was reluctant to link that emancipation with integration in American society.

Overlay that with the necessity of finding a solution for representation in a legislature for the new nation. The regretable solution was the infamous 3/5 compromise which sought to prohibit the expansion of slavery in the future but in the present offered the degrading proposition of counting a slave as 3/5 of a person. It wasn't a statement of diminution so much as a political solution. It recognized the realities of the economy, the impact of the slaves on governmental infrastructure and the counter that slaves did not pay taxes, own property or vote. It was a means to an end which was a solution to representation. Yet, it still is viewed by many as a prevailing attitude of racial discimination.

We fought a Civil War on the question eventually and despite the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments there was still institutionalized discrimination in America well into the 20th century. Segregation was alive and well when I was a child. I saw it when we vacationed in Florida and drove through the American South. I recognized it when we drove to the southside of Chicago to visit relatives. It was real.

The NAACP was instituted to do what the name implies, advance the people in society. The 1950's brought us Brown v BOE and school integration. Barriers crumbled. The '60s got us civil rights acts and voting rights acts and Freedom Riders. It set the groundwork for equal opportunity and even affirmative action. It elevated Martin Luther King to national icon and made his "Dream" speech familiar to all of us. The phrase about "content of character" as a basis of evaluation rather than "color of his skin" made so much sense that everyone could recite the line by heart.

It's been fifty years since that civil rights revolution. De jure segregation is long gone and de facto segregation is blessedly rare. Of course there is still racism in America. There are dozens of "isms" and there always will be. Humans are basically flawed and prejudice is always lurking.

But, maybe you noticed that we've got an African-American President. The Congress of the United States has a Black Caucus. The Cabinet is a rainbow coalition. There is a Black Supreme Court Justice and there has been for forty years. It is very difficult to claim institutionalized racism in America today.

Why then this:

NAACP Condemns TEA Party as Racist

Is this creating a bogeyman? Does this seek to create an impression about a political protest movement which is in opposition to high taxes, high deficits, redistribution of wealth, centralization of government control, nationalization of major industries, dismantling of free enterprise and gutting our Constitutional freedoms? Can you really equate the movement with racism?

There was a childhood story we all were told about a shepherd boy who learned that he could get attention and responses by running to the people and crying "Wolf!" He did it too often and when the real wolf showed up the people ignored him. Wolf's menu de jour had lamb chops followed by shepherd pie with real shepherd.

I'm thinking that we are way too far downstream for this NAACP cry of "Wolf!" to have any sort of impact anymore.

They would be much better served by focussing on advancing the people rather than attacking other people. They would do well to focus on education, families, child-rearing, principled behavior and enhancing their culture. They should be working on crime in their communities, the drug culture, fatherless children, objectification of women, and building their country as a part of the whole. They should focus on the content of their character rather than the color of their own skin. We can all work together much more effectively when we recognize our goals in common.


bongobear said...

Well said, Ed.

immagikman said...

Well Said and it should be mandatory reading everywhere....except Im against things being "mandatory" :D

nzgarry said...

Well said Mr Rasimus.
Someone once said "The past is a foreign country".
Like many Americans, we here get sick of being slurred with cries of "racist" for simply expressing
our heartfelt and sincere opinions.

During our time in the US. we had the good fortune to pass through
Appomattox. I clearly recall the sad line of gravestones and thinking 'Just young men who never owned a slave'.

There are many wrongs in our New Zealand history with the Maori people, but so many good things too.
We are all well aware that tribal
life in NZ was savage. Warfare was continuous and the vanquished were
either enslaved or eaten.

Generally though we get along OK,
except for those who raise the cries of 'racism' etc. (often white folks).

Some people want to dredge
up the past to create grievance and discord, there is money in it!.

Ralph said...

In many ways the NAACP is like the United Nations. When the latter was created in 1945, it was hoped that it would be much more effective in world diplomacy than the failed League of Nations. But alas, the current organization has become of cesspool of graft and corruption, often oriented against freedom loving peoples, and unfailingly anti-Semitic. Oh, and yes, the collective wisdom of that failed group usually works against the best interests and missions of the United States. I acknowledge some sporadic diplomatic and humanitarian successes, but they are not the norm.

Likewise, the NAACP has fought some important battles, especially in the segregated South during the middle decades of the twentieth century. And to be sure, it took courage to battle the KKK in that hate group’s backyard, even when the battlefield was a courtroom. But like the UN, the NAACP now does more harm than good. The good news is that in our imperfect nation the breakdown of segregation has led to increased social and economic opportunities for black Americans and other minorities. Many readers of this blog will have experienced the friendship and other benefits that derived from the rising black middle-class. In my own life, these friends and co-workers have included officers and NCOs in the military, teachers, business and civic leaders. And yes, in an intrinsic sense, the election of a black president was an important event for our nation.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign of progress is the number of black leaders who reject the foolish and harmful overtures of the NAACP. Let’s hope that this trend continues.

PickYourBattles.Net said...

You're absolutely right...let's focus on character rather than skin color. The simple color based system had its place and did real good in the past, but we're beyond that now. The old system (thanks greatly for your service) needs to recognize that and evolve. We've still got social problems to solve, but they're not as glaring or simple as they once were.

juvat said...

Nope, gotta disagree. Racism is alive and very, very well in America and, more prevalently, the rest of the world. It's been my observation that, in fact, there are Caucasian racists. There are also, more abundantly, Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Arabic racists. The problem is the legal system in the United States, and the rest of Western Civilized Countries has been prostituted into accepting the misguided notion that ONLY Caucasians (AKA whitey's) can possibly be racist. Hogwash! Discrimination against ANY another based on the color of their skin is Racism, pure and simple. End of Discussion.

Continuance of this discussion along these lines can only be about the transference of political and economic power. Beyond a certain level of magnitude, that transference becomes a matter involving such ugly terms as revolution or civil war. Mr. Holder, his boss and the rest of Congress (R and D) had better come to an understanding of this. Perhaps a reading of the Declaration of Independence followed by a reading of this version might help to focus their feeble brains. We're facing an ugly time, my friends, and until we once again embrace the concept held in the words "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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."