While doing a bit of research on the original sin of racism in the United States, I came across this quote by Benjamin Franklin. I find it a powerful argument for why the Constitution of the United States needs to be either completely re-written or deeply studied and amended. I say this because it was written entirely by white men. At the time, this made “sense” as nobody else was allowed to own property or to vote; not women, indigenous Americans, or black people, all (or, certainly, the vast majority) of whom were slaves at the time.
“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?” he asked.
Benjamin franklin – September 17, 1787
Things have changed considerably in the ensuing nearly 234 years and I believe our guiding documents should be updated to reflect the profound changes that have occurred in our nation during that time. From the ending of slavery, through women’s suffrage, to the Civil Rights Movement, and to the first Native American to be appointed to a Presidential Cabinet position, nearly everyone has been “emancipated” politically, yet our founding document still rests on the “prejudices, passions, errors of opinion, local interests, and selfish views” of the Founders. I believe we can … nay, must … do better.
I’m not normally fond of using WordPress’s “Press This” function, because it only pulls a few words into my blog from the original post. It’s good because it means anyone wishing to read the article can see it in its entirety as originally published, but it also means I might have to copy some words over to make the post a little more intelligible and to provide some needed context.
Nevertheless, this article is one I consider extremely important . . . for white people to read. As I commented when posting it to Twitter and Facebook: “We may not have invented racism, but we sure as hell have benefited from it these last 3 or 4 centuries. It’s up to us to end it. That’s the real “White Man’s Burden!”
Check this article out. You might want to read more at The Root as well.
After a grueling 28 days of watching corporations, institutions and random white people pretend to care about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and that other Black guy with the big part in his afro (I think it’s Booker T. Douglass), we now return to our regularly scheduled program.
Can we please stop using the phrase “Rule of Law?” The law has been used in this country for some of the most racist, vicious, and nefarious acts committed anywhere and it’s not, IMO, a useful phrase. Better that we use “Equal Justice Under the Law.” Here are a just a few examples of laws that have been passed or rulings that have been handed down that make the point:
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – At the time it was passed, Chinese were only .002% of the population, but white people were worried about maintaining “racial purity.” Like today’s fears of immigrants, it was claimed they were taking jobs from white Americans.
People v. Hall – 1854. In this case, the California Supreme Court ruled that Chinese people had no rights to testify in court, adding them to the language of the laws at the time that stated “No black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a white man.”
The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was facilitated by numerous laws and Executive Orders, including EO 9066, signed by our “Democratic Socialist” President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My own in-laws were forced to assemble at Santa Anita Racetrack, where they resided in captivity until they were transferred to the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado (AKA “Amache”) where they were interned for over two years.
Slavery – The laws supporting slavery are too numerous to recount here, as each state had its own “Slave Codes,” which were designed to give slave owners absolute power over their slaves, including forbidding slaves to even defend themselves or their family. In many, they were forbidden from learning to read or to leave their plantation without written permission. All of these restrictions were perfectly “legal” at the time.
The history of the U.S. and Native Americans is rife with treaties and acts continuously taking away land or forcing entire communities to leave their ancestral lands and move to less desirable locations, as well as hundreds of treaties which were broken by the U.S. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced the removal of five tribes, culminating in a forced migration later known as the “Trail of Tears.”
There are numerous instances in history, especially notable ones being the laws passed in Nazi Germany making it unlawful to aid Jews and providing for their imprisonment and extermination.
All these were done under the color of law, e.g. the “Rule of Law.” We need to stop using this term. As I noted above, “Equality Under the Law” seems far more on point if we’re interested in freedom, justice, and equality of all peoples.
Don’t know if this will show up on the page, but I’m trying it. I want to share this sentiment posted to Instagram by Colin Kaepernick. I have seen it before and I believe it’s narrated by James Baldwin, but I may be wrong. Regardless, this is something all of us must keep in mind. Our country is not exactly the righteous, benevolent State we’ve been propagandized into believing it is. Please don’t forget what’s been done in our name.
Passover is a very meaningful holiday for Jews. During the seder, the ritual dinner that’s served that evening, the story of bondage by the Egyptians is recounted and thanks are given for their release after a series of plagues are visited upon the slaveholders, culminating in the slaughter of first-born Egyptians and the successful escape via Moses’s parting of the Red Sea.
Thanksgiving has been a meaningful holiday for we “Americans”, first celebrated in 1621 but not officially until 1863, when President Lincoln declared it a national holiday. It was meant to celebrate the good fortune of the original Pilgrims, as well as that of all of us who came to live in this land.
Much as we have learned Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America wasn’t exactly as benign and wonderful as we were led to believe (certainly when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s), we now know the generosity of those indigenous people who provided for that first Thanksgiving we now celebrate, was rewarded with hatred and genocide.
I can’t speak for everyone but, as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is now a holiday in which we celebrate the love of family and friendship, as well as remember how deeply racism, nationalism, and white supremacy are rooted in our national identity. In this time of deep despair over the backward direction our nation is heading, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to a history that includes everyone, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic, as well as seek what objective truth there is, absent favoritism, nationalism, and whataboutism.
I hope everyone has – or had – a wonderful holiday, filled with love and generosity of spirit. I also hope everyone remembered – and remembers – we are far from blameless and sometimes we have – and do – stumble on our journey toward a “more perfect union.”
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.