It’s time to Break It Down!
Fact. There are many Americans who simply refuse, under any circumstances, at any time, in any place, to consider the prospect their country in general, and especially themselves in particular, ever tolerate even the hint of a suggestion that they harbor the most remote scintilla of racist thought, deed, or action in exercising their life’s functions. In fact, if you happen to suggest that one of these people is racist, that person will deny it, quickly and robustly, and then just as speedily and fervently, insist that by the mere introduction of such an idea, you, in fact, are the racist.
While I firmly believe this to be true of Americans as a whole, it is in my opinion super-turbo-fied for white Americans. Take a moment to breathe deeply before opting to just go directly to your neutral corner and employ searing eyes and an angry heart to throw shade at such a bodacious premise, or at me for displaying the temerity to author it.
The thing is, there is well-documented, widely accepted American history that explains, at least in part, why so many otherwise intelligent and reasonable Americans think that way, even in the 21st Century. There are, in some people’s mind, perfectly logical events that underpin the fundamental structure of this premise. Like it or not, this is a thing, a very inconvenient American truth. Let’s take a walk back in the historical annals of time and space.
Meet Dred Scott! Dred Scott sued for his freedom, on the grounds that he and his wife had for years lived in a free state. His case eventually went to the Supreme Court. In his March 6, 1857 ruling, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Roger Taney declared that Scott had no right to sue because as a black man he was never intended to be an American.
Speaking of the clause in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” Taney wrote:
“It is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration.”
Taney went on to say the following:
“The negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect”
“It is difficult, at this day, to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the constitution was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior race, and altogether unfit to associate with the white races, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
Chief Justice Taney wrote the majority opinion. The court held that Scott was not free based on his residence in either Illinois or Wisconsin because he was not considered a person under the U.S. Constitution–in the opinion of the justices; black people were not considered citizens when the Constitution was drafted in 1787. According to Taney, Dred Scott was the property of his owner, and property could not be taken from a person without due process of law.
In fact, there were free black citizens of the United States in 1787, but Taney and the other justices were attempting to halt further debate on the issue of slavery in the territories. The decision inflamed regional tensions, which burned for another four years before exploding into the Civil War.
Now most people would read the aforementioned and undoubtedly be prone to say, that was a 159 years ago. The United States fought a war (the Civil War) that exorcised the stench of the demons of that ludicrously inhumane ruling. Without a doubt America and black Americans, yes we are Americans, were freed from the heinous circumstances that made such a reckoning by the foremost jurist in the highest court in the land even possible. And you would be right…as it relates to most people.
But most is not all, and in this instance, it is particularly important in the case of one among those numbered in the some, not in the most. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, former Fox News Host, & 2016 GOP Presidential Candidate articulated a belief last summer, while he was pursuing the 2016 Republican nomination for President, that the Dred Scott Decision, rendered by the Taney Supreme Court…is still the law!
Interestingly enough, he made this argument while defending an individual’s right to ignore a Supreme Court ruling. While defending Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses out of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage, Mike Huckabee said:
“The Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford – which held that all blacks, free or enslaved, could not be American citizens – is still the law of the land even though no one follows it.”
“I’ve been just drilled by TV hosts over the past week, ‘How dare you say that, uh, it’s not the law of the land? Because that’s their phrase, ‘it’s the law of the land.’ Michael, the Dred Scott decision of 1857 still remains to this day the law of the land, which says that black people aren’t fully human. Does anybody still follow the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision?’”
And lest you feel compelled to dismiss this Troglodytic comment as a mere aberration by this pillar of contemporary Republicanism, the former Governor, former Fox News host, and former Presidential candidate has somehow convinced himself that federal “enabling legislation” is necessary in response to court rulings, or they don’t count. Further, he’s also endorsed pre-Civil War nullification schemes and suggested he might deploy federal troops on U.S. soil to prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights. But I digress.
This, all of this, from Robert Taney’s legalistic machinations, to Mike Huckabee’s political ramblings explains, in no uncertain terms why Black Lives Matter (BLM). Almost anyone who follows the Movement, either as a an activist/member, or from an intellectual and/or academic perspective, can tell you that neither the Movement nor the acronym BLM is intended to convey the sentiment that Black Live Matter and others do not, or that Black Lives Matter more than others, or that Black Lives Matter because they are more important than White Lives, Asian Lives, Latino Lives, Native American Lives, or any other lives.
Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza founded #BlackLivesMatter in 2013. The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter became nationally recognized for its street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York City.
#BlackLivesMatter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and their allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialog among Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement. All in all, I think that is a noble endeavor.
BLM’s Home Page footer includes the following defining language:
#BlackLivesMatter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
BLM, in an effort to help familiarize interested parties with their operational objects shares a list of Guiding Principals on its Home Page. Those ideals include:
- Restorative Justice
- Unapologetically Black
- Collective Value
- Transgender Affirming
- Black Women
- Black Villages
- Black Families
- Loving Engagement
- Queer Affirming
I’m not a #BLM activist. However, as a black man in America, born and raised in this country, I absolutely understand why the Movement is not only justified it is essential. I unequivocally reject the notion that #BLM is racist. In fact, the Movement is a direct response to disparate treatment on its face. In addition, just in case anyone actually needs to be reminded, it is necessary because of a daunting history of minimizing and denigrating responses to Black Life.
That history, in and of itself would justify such a Movement. However, as I noted above, there is also a contemporary mindset that embraces the notion that Black Lives are not equal, and have no rights that need not be respected (by White men). In an America in which an individual counted among our nation’s thought leaders (Pease do not suggest a man who has served as Governor of a sovereign State of the United States of America is not a significant molder and shaper of public opinion) can openly hold, project, and promote those views…“Black Lives Matter: Of That I Am Certain!”
I’m done; holla back!
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