Are over half of White Southerners racists or bigots? Time magazine attempted to make this assentation in an article they wrote last year marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War: “150 Years After Fort Sumter: Why We’re Still Fighting the Civil War” by David Von Drehle. Von Drehle’s hypothesis is that people are dismissing slavery as the leading cause of the Civil War because of an April 2011 poll: “Harris Interactive polled more than 2,500 adults across the country, asking what the North and South were fighting about. A majority, including two-thirds of white respondents in the 11 states that formed the Confederacy, answered that the South was mainly motivated by "states' rights" rather than the future of slavery.”
I for one was never taught any the fallacies pointed out in Von Drehle’s analysis of the Civil War (although I was educated in Northern schools). It seems Von Drehle’s objective, as with many liberal historians and writers, is to dream up racial story lines (After all, this type of divisive story sells magazines, but, unfortunately I think Von Drehle believes the righteous drivel and conspiracy theories he spews). It has been 150 years since the Civil War ended and we still need to insinuate that White Southerners are still racists and bigots – that is truly sad, particularly since none of them were alive 150 years ago.
Today, when people say that the Civil War was about states’ rights they are correct. The most important outcome of the Civil War was the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to our Constitution, in particular, Article I of the 14th amendment. And it is important to note that while the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were ratified to protect African-Americans (former slaves), there is nothing in these amendments specifically referring to blacks, Negroes, African-Americans, or slaves. The amendments were written in generic terms such to be inclusive of all Americans, not just one race or ethnicity. Maybe the Northern politicians and bureaucrats who wrote the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were also racists? After all, they did not refer specifically to slavery as being the main cause of the Civil War (as Von Drehle’s hypothesis would suggest).
The interpretation of the 14th amendment has expanded over the years. Meanwhile, the importance 10th amendment, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”, has diminished. Article I of the 14th amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Today, people understand that the 14th amendment, in particular the due process clause (second sentence) of Article I, has made the 10th amendment moot or inconsequential. For this reason, States’ rights were forever changed by the Civil War. For instance, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Miranda and Roe based on the due process clause in Article I of the 14th amendment. Hence, the outcome of these decisions, and dozens like them, has changed hundreds of state laws. This is evidence that the Constitution’s 10th amendment, protecting states’ rights, is null and void – a critical outcome of the Civil War.
Also, Supreme Court citizenship rulings were upheld for Hispanics and other races based on the 14th amendment. If we believe Von Drehle’s premise that the 14th amendment was just about slavery, than we can start departing all those children born in the United States from illegal aliens. But the naturalization clause from Article I of the 14th amendment (first sentence) is inclusive of all ethnicities and races, not just African-Americans or former slaves.
Respondents to a Harris Interactive poll suggesting the Civil War was about states’ rights are not bigots (as Von Drehle suggests), but people who understand the modern implications of the Civil War’s most important documents – the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which were written to protect all Americans, not just former slaves. Von Drehle’s hypothesis is not only misguided and divisive because he obviously fails to understand history and our most important document (the Constitution if he needs to be reminded), but his theory refutes his liberal views on abortion and citizenship to name a few.
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