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Dec 12, 2008

How can the US federal government randomly pick-and-choose how to hand out citizenship rights; and how can the federal government simply ignore mandates outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution?

In this essay, I posit that religious ideology, and specifically Christianity, has severely harmed the architecture of our government.  Christianity has been infused into every branch of our government despite the fact that our nation was founded on religious tolerance and acceptance of all people.  The Puritans fled from the Old Country, in part, to escape religious persecution; however, when they arrived to the New World, they brought the instruments of intolerance and hatred with them.  They brought the religion that had been used to persecuted them-- Christianity.

Over time, the Puritans built a colony, and later as Americans, they created a nation entrenched in Christianity.  Interestingly enough, however, the founding fathers of this nation chose not to embrace or endorse a state religion and omitted it from the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.  These informed and intelligent men remembered the religious evils which existed in Great Britain, and instead they sought to create a nation built upon equal, secular values and beliefs. 

Nevertheless, the tentacles of Christianity created over time an unequal institutionalized tier of citizenship.  Blacks were at the bottom.  Kidnapped from Africa, they were enslaved, bred like animals, and bought and sold like every day commodities.  Women were a notch above blacks, however, they, too, were simply considered the property of their husbands.  Just as blacks suffered many painful and unjust moments in the history of our nation, so too did women. 

In 1865 following the Civil War, the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution granted blacks their freedom from slavery; and five years later,  the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibited states from preventing people of color from voting: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. [And] The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” 

During the Jim Crow era, racial discrimination persisted and the disenfranchisement of blacks continued.  Despite the passage of the 15th Amendment, many states implemented unfair screening processes which denied blacks the right to vote.  Nevertheless, a century later, African-Americans finally secured the right to vote with the passage of The National Voting Act of 1965.

 In 1920, women were granted the right to vote with the passage of 19th Amendment to the US Constitution.  “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The participation of the US federal government was crucial to creating and ultimately perpetuating equality for African-Americans and women. If individual states had been recruited to deal with racial and gender discrimination, there would be broad and staggering inequalities for African-Americans and women to this day.  Thankfully, our federal government did the right thing by taking control and correcting inequalities tolerated for far too long. 

The struggle of gay Americans  for equal rights is really no different than the struggles of  blacks or women.  Once again, he US federal government will have to step in and strip away the last remnants of apartheid in our nation.  The federal government will need to return to the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence for unbiased insight and remedy the injustices which have been supported, in part, by discriminatory Christian practices and beliefs.  The federal government cannot stand by idly and do nothing.  All Americans regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation should be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

I often wonder what some Americans will do when they wake up from their cognitively impaired,  heartless slumber, and realize how they have, actively or in silence, carried out, or tolerated, the many heinous and irrevocable injustices perpetrated on gay Americans….and often times in the name of their own God.  Will God-fearing Americans feel the shameful anguish of their action, or inaction, to the suffering of God’s gay children?  Will their experience be similar to the Germans who have had to live with their monstrous fingerprint on the history of the Jewish people?

It really amazes me how some individuals rationalize hatred and intolerance for certain groups of people.  To advance and legitimatize absurdities, many invoke the will of God to strengthen their argument, and to frighten others into accepting and adopting a code of morality which segregates, harms and disenfranchises other fellow Americans. Why do we do this?  Why do we refuse to learn from our mistakes?  Clearly, the mantra of our history teachers has fallen on deaf ears. 

Here’s some food for thought.  Voltaire, a French philosopher, stated, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
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Posted: Dec 12, 2008 11:56pm
Jul 29, 2006
Part of my summer reading included re-reading a nonfiction book entitled Black Like Me written by John Griffin, a white journalist who documented his travels throughout the South of the US in 1959. During this era of Jim Crow, segregation of Blacks and whites was commonplace in the South, and institutionalized discrimination against Blacks was too. However, what makes Griffin's book even more interesting is the fact that he traveled in disguise as a Black man in the South.

The book is an excellent study of many sociological issues and concerns of that time period in the US, however, I was struck by the compelling information regarding racism and sexism that Griffin presents. Griffin introduces the reader to many stereotypes which were used to describe African-Americans during the time period of his sociological experiment. As with most stereotypes, the vast majority presented in the book are based in ignorance and misunderstanding of African-American culture.


Griffin reports of a certain perverse curiosity that many whites had (and might possibly still have) regarding African-Americans, and the ignorant, irrational stereotypes that many whites used to characterize African-Americans. Unfortunately, Griffin chooses to present the reader with these stereotypes sometimes without attempting to explain them. Such stereotypes need to be examined, in my opinion, to illustrate the dynamic interaction between racism and sexism, and how racism and sexism are utilized in Black Like Me and in everyday life as mechanisms used by whites to discriminate against and, often times , victimize African-Americans.

In Black Like Me, Griffin, as a Black man, speaks of the numerous encounters he had with white people. The vast majority of these interactions occurred at night. Griffin writes, “A man [white] will reveal himself in the dark, which gives an illusion of anonymity, more than he will in the bright light.” [Griffin, p. 85] Griffin refers to his encounters with white people as pornographic. In conversation, white men would interrogate Griffin in hopes that he would reveal some mystic information concerning the lifestyle of sexual behavior of Black people. From these experiences with white people, Griffin posits that these individuals believed that Blacks were “ an exhaustible sexual machine with oversized genitals and a vast store of experiences, immensely varied.” [Griffin, p. 85]

Griffin’s nocturnal encounters with white men suggest that such sexual perverse curiosity was one means by which white men subordinated and exploited the Black male. Centuries-old white mythology was also used in combination with this sexual perverse curiosity to victimize Blacks. Fearful white men established untruths which have been used throughout American history to retard African-American progress.


White mythology was used to explain the unexplainable as well as to place the white man above all other non-whites. White men viewed the Black male as an animal, a horse, a stallion possessing physical prowess, inexhaustible sexual appetite, and uncontrollable passions. In support of such mythology, Griffin recounts an incident when a white man asked him if he had ever had ever been with a white woman. When Griffin responded that he had never been with one, the white man states, “There’s plenty of white women who would like to have a good buck Negro.” [Griffin, p. 86]

Another established and accepted untruth is the portrayal of the Black female by white people. Black women are perceived to be sensual, exotic, and extremely provocative. “…NOTICE!…it was only another list of prices a white man would pay for various types of sensuality with various ages of Negro girls.” [Griffin, p. 81] Griffin reports that Black women were greatly used and abused by white men, and many times Black women were also mistreated by their own race. Some Black men when paid a certain amount of money would even assist white men procure Black women and children.

In mythological terms, Black men were viewed as Apollo, and Black women were viewed as Venus, and white women were viewed as the Virgin Mary. These stereotypes which were devised by white men not only caused significant problems for Blacks, but also fro white people. Two more frequently employed stereotypes created by white men and given to Blacks included the aggressive savage beast, and the docile child inferior to whites in all aspects. Many other stereotypes have been created and utilized by whites in the US to describe Blacks, however, the previously mentioned ones are perhaps the most ingrained in the American psyche.

Griffin became Black on the outside, and experienced many things which African-Americans experienced at that time, but his interpretation of his collected data was from the perspective of a white man. Griffin’s cultural orientation, ethnic heritage, and race were constantly with him at all times even if they were not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, Griffin was only able to draw a conclusion from his darkened ‘white’ feelings, reasoning, and senses.

Griffin’s experiment stands as a testament to the wrongs which had been done to African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. I would recommend Black Like Me to anyone interested in investigating how white people perceived and treated African-Americans in the South prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the US.

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Posted: Jul 29, 2006 8:45pm

 

 
 
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