Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Color of the Constitution (Part I)

The racial divide in our country widens under Obama: The Black Lives Matter movement is so prejudicial they only believe black lives matter; Black citizens are protesting heinous crimes by white police officers against black youths, but these same people do nothing as thousands of black youths are killed by other blacks; Others are protesting to remove Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Roger Taney from history because of their “bigoted” views, but they forget blacks have greatly taken advantage of the progressive movement started by Wilson or that the words “All men are created equal” written by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence would help steer the anti-slavery movement; or Protests at the college level which want to remove racism at the expense of the first amendment. There is no question that the hypocrisy, racism, and lawlessness of these movements is worrisome. By eliminating history, it defeats the purpose of any movement – to forget the struggles of our past. In fact, these folks want to erase the lessons of history and start over by making the same mistakes (prejudice, stifling free speech, etc.). History has shown that many people, including white people, made lots of sacrifices to knock down the barriers of racism and prejudice, but these folks will never be recognized for their achievements by a bunch of misguided groups of people protesting throughout the country. They only want to harp on the negatives.

After over 500,000 Americans died in the Civil War to end slavery and the drafting of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, racism and prejudice lived on through segregation and Jim Crow laws. One of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history allowed this to happen: Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court ruled that “separate but equal” was Constitutional. The first big turning point to end segregation occurred when the Court overturned Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education. The Court used unconventional practices and methods in this case to rule separate but equal was not equal and that school systems throughout the United States had to be integrated. First, the court overruled precedence, which does not happen very often. Secondly, the court allowed a social study to be part of the ruling. The study was conducted by a black couple who monitored children responses to questions by having them select a “white” doll or “black” doll as their answers. However, this study was flawed because it lacked control of variables and it contains the prejudices of the black couple conducting the study (the outcome was biased). From this study the court concluded even if white and black schools were equal, segregation was still harmful to black students. Thirdly, this court was making an “activist” decision. They could have waited for Congress to pass new civil rights legislation, but instead decided they would legislate from the bench. They were able to bypass this controversy by having a unanimous decision (9-0) including Judges Frankfurter and Jackson who generally ruled with judicial restraint and Judge Reed who was a known proponent of segregation joining the majority decision. Fourthly, the court applied the “equal protection” clause of the 14th amendment in its decision. However, federal jurisdictions did not have an “equal protection” clause but in Bolling v. Sharpe (filed in a federal jurisdiction – DC), the Court imaginatively read “equal protection” into the 5th amendment to have a consistent ruling as the Brown case. Following the Brown ruling, President Eisenhower used the National Guard to force integration at Little Rock Arkansas schools deeming the court’s ruling law of the land even though it was not passed by Congress.

There were several other issues with the Brown ruling. I remember my mom being so happy to move us from one school system to another just 5 miles away. She told us it was a better school. It was certainly more modern, but the teachers were not any better. I would say they were the same. However, the big difference was that the “modern” school did not have a home economics class nor a shop class. Maybe the old school did not have the most modern equipment, but I learned how to cook and do woodwork at that school. In the Brown case there were lots of pictures showing lush conditions in “white” schools and schools with old equipment at “black” schools. I may not have a kitchen that is comparable to someone living in a mansion, but I can still be the better cook using inferior equipment. I learned how to write computer programs at school using outdated equipment and languages, but it was still applicable in the real world. “Modern” does not necessarily mean better all the time. Nor does it mean things learned on outdated equipment could not be applicable in the real world. These were some of the least compelling arguments used to claim separate but equal was not in fact equal.

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