Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry is still a problem in America

December 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 6 Comments
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America today seems to be in the midst of arguments that were supposedly laid to rest over two hundred years ago. A number of popular politicians and statesmen have been talking about things like secession, state’s rights and indirectly, the value of slavery. The mere fact that these topics are being discussed points to our lack of knowledge concerning history (the Civil War), secession, and slavery. Could ethnic bias be the motive behind these topics?

The references to State’s rights seem to suggest that the states should supersede the federal government by making their own laws when they want to and covering whatever they want to cover. Lest we forget, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments as well as the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s were all created and passed because the states failed to do right by some of its citizens in administering justice. In essence, the states could not be trusted to protect the rights of all their citizens. In fact, some of the states were complicit in preventing some of its citizens from enjoying their rights.

The appeal to people wanting states rights is really an effort to resurrect old biases that allowed states to discriminate against ethnic minorities, women, and children. For example, as recently as 1969 in Oklahoma, by law, an African American could not marry anyone but an African American, or women and children could not establish a legal residential address independent of a husband, brother, or some other male. Other state laws supported discrimination and ethnic separation in schools as well as housing and public places. The federal government had to step in and protect the rights of these citizens. The proponents of state’s rights now want to try and to gain back some of the control they believe they lost to the federal government. They want to impose their will on some citizens they feel are a threat to them economically and/or politically.

What many of the proponents of state’s rights will not discuss are the strengths and privileges derived by the states from being part of a union of states. Prior to becoming a unified body, each of the thirteen colonies was separate governments and realized the problems and challenges that were created from their being separate. Once the states realized that many of these challenges and problems could be easily addressed by joining forces, they were ready to compromise. Finally, when the federal constitution was ratified the states knew the significance of E PLURIBUS UNUM. Of course, many of the powerful state citizens were not pleased with some of the rights and privileges the states had to given up.

Still today, many Southerners are not happy with some of the power the states gave up or lost after the Civil War. Just recently a secession celebration was held in South Carolina revisiting the act committed 150 years ago of seceding from the Union. Why? What did they celebrate? What was gained by bringing up the reason for the secession in the first place—slavery. The most powerful and significant element given up by the Southern states was the power to own slaves. The irony of this entire episode is that one usually hears southerners complaining about African Americans for speaking about slavery and its legacy, and exclaiming to them to “Get over it.” Well, look whose bring it up now. Governor Haley Barbour thought the celebration was in keeping with honoring the courageous Southerners who signed the papers to secede. To him, one might suppose, they are heroes

 This business of states seceding from the Union is nothing but biased ethnic baiting. First of all, seceding is unconstitutional and unpatriotic. However, even if it was permissible, the state or states doing so would be in peril because they would have to divest themselves of everything owned by or controlled by the federal government. Just imagine what life would be like if all federal roads ended at the state border, or all federal instillations—military bases, VA hospitals, FDIC for banks, no social security and Medicare, money for schools were no longer present. In addition, trade across state lines would be discontinued because all trade outside the seceded states must be approved by the federal government. These are just a few examples of some of the problems these states would have to contend with by virtue of not being part of the Union. So, when some politician starts o talk about secession, please know they are trying to stir up some bias that would invite unsuspecting citizens to join forces with him in some other cause, but not secession. That is, unless the politician is niece or foolish.

One politician who campaigned on state’s right and secession was Texas Governor, Rick Perry. Why would a supposedly intelligent statesman deliberately create such illusions for him supporters? He knows full well that secession is not even a remote possibility for Texas or any other state, for that matter. Chances are he wants to appeal to a certain segment of the population that yearns for “the good old days” when “the good old boys” were in control of everything in the state.

What is happening today? The civil war has been over since the late 1860’s, yet many Southern Americans seem to think that the war is still going on. Evidently they were under the belief that slavery was good and their state had the right to keep it. Their attitude is something akin to them believing that God gave them slavery and it was wrong for the Union to take it away from them. Governors Rick Perry and Haley Barber seem to want to go back to “the good old days “of slavery and state’s rights. Rand Paul, Jim DeMint and other politicians wants to revisit the 14th Amendment which identifies and protects civil rights. They say it is because they want to protect America from illegal immigrants. If that is the issue, why not deal with the issue of illegal immigrants rather than trying to change the 14th Amendment?

Since the election of Barack Obama as President, the country has been bombarded with negative assertions and accusations about the direction in which Obama is taking the country. Why all the negativity? Prejudice against Obama because of his ethnicity seems to be one of the reasons. But where did this prejudice come from? If we take a moment to look around and see who is spreading this hate and venom, the answer becomes apparent. Would good Christian people never have a positive or good word of encouragement to say about the President or his handling of the country? Or wish him God’s blessings as the goes about his business of leading the country? Some people need to know that the South did indeed lose the war, and that the questions of secession and state’s rights were settled regarding slavery. If some people want to continue believing that slavery was right and God’s gift to the South, that is their personal privilege, but they also need to know that since it is contrary to the law of the land, it must remain personal. Negotiations over the Civil War and Reconstruction are over.



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  1. It isn’t just a problem in the USA. Australia, another melting pot nation (in fact even more so than the USA) also has issues. Read any of our papers or google Indian students in Australia, for example. In my own case, the government have used ethnic stereotyping in the official denial of my husband’s partner visa.

    My best friend in an American and she tells me horror stories of her own personal experiences.

    • Thank you for your comment and for offering information concerning bigotry in your part of the world. The one thing we can do is try and fight the ignorance and fiction many people believe concerning human differences by exposing it.

  2. Here’s a rebuttal from someone from Barbour’s childhood years. The online comments from some of the readers there corroborate what this writer says about the Citizens’ Councils.

  3. Just as we have become so much more entwined globally, it is inconceivable to think states can retain all the freedoms they enjoyed in the past or even enjoy presently. The day of being independant of one another is past and it is time to recognize and accept we do not live in a vacuum in this country or on this planet. We watched the 1997 film “Amistad” the other night. We still have such a long way to go before we recognize we are all ‘one’.

  4. Yes, bigotry is one reason some dislike Obama. Another is his party affiliation.
    As to Rick Perry and his views, I’ll make no comment except to quote what a Dallas friend says, “Rick Perry is dumber than George W. Bush.”

    • “Rick Perry is dumber than George W. Bush.”

      I honestly thought was well nigh impossible

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