Here’s my problem with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s (founded by Father of Black History Dr. Carter G. Woodson) selection of “Civil Rights in America” as this year’s Black History Month Theme:
How can African Americans expect civil treatment from a society that DENIES our humanity at every given opportunity, and REFUSES to treat us with even a scintilla of civility?
Civil Rights are defined as “the nonpolitical rights of a citizen; especially: The rights of personal liberty guaranteed to United States citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress”*
Human Rights are defined as the “basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status”, to include civil and political rights – ex. The right to life, liberty, and freedom and expression.
Human rights are also protected and upheld by national and international law.
If “civil rights” are indeed nonpolitical citizens’ rights, even if “guaranteed” by the 13th and 14th Amendment, that doesn’t do us African Americans a bit of good, for this one reason:
Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which states:
“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons”
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads:
“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.”
Here’s why I’ve referenced these specific parts of the Constitution:
Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 says “three-fifths of all other persons,” those three-fifths of people being SLAVES, while the 14th Amendment says “all persons born or naturalized.”
But, here’s the problem with the 14th Amendment: There’s no documentation correcting the inherent racism referring to my People and me as “60 percent people”, so how exactly does the 13th and 14th Amendment “guarantee” our civil rights as citizens?
For the 13th and 14th Amendments to apply, for them to do us any good at all, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 would have to have been either stricken from the document itself, or an Amendment addressing the need to correct this specific language written and ratified.
Neither of these things has yet to take place.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dred Scott case supports this contention, when it said since African Americans were “beings of an inferior order, and ALTOGETHER UNFIT to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect,” as per Article 3 of the Constitution.
The Court further expounded by claiming ruling in Scott’s favor would lead to the “inevitable” and “undesirable” effects of:
[G]iving “to persons of the Negro race, …the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, …to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased …the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens (emphasis mine) might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.”
So, HOW exactly did we get to address the issue of CIVIL rights, when even the SUPREME COURT said we African Americans had NO rights the white man was bound to respect, and weren’t even considered citizens, in the first place?
Is the African American’s problem truly one of a denial of so-called civil rights, or is it the denial of Our HUMAN rights that plagues us?
What exactly does 50 years of “civil rights” mean for a people who have spent our tenure in this country being treated the way we’ve been and continue to be treated?
To put it more bluntly, should “Civil Rights in America” mean anything to African Americans, at all?
How does using the same bathrooms as white folks, sending our children to predominately white institutions (where they are mistreated and mis-educated on the regular), and drinking water from the same hose white folks do BALANCE the 400 YEARS of NEGATIVE KARMA that was Slavery, Willie Lynch, Jim Crow, and Segregation?
Even if that were all it took, 50 years wouldn’t begin to cover it.
Fifty years of marginally and arbitrarily decent treatment wouldn’t come close.
Not by a long shot.