Inalienable Rights for All
|It Started in 1776|
In a recent statement published by the George W. Bush Institute concerning the health of democracy in the United States, representatives of the foundations and centers of thirteen past presidents of these United States, of both major parties, drew attention to threats to democracy. Clearly, this was a bi-partisan statement.
Actually, the health of American democracy has been in jeopardy since its 'day one' back in 1789!
History has proven that the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence were initially intended to exist only for white, propertied, males, made possible by the subservience of everyone else, who were being denied those rights to some extent.
A struggle has been going on since the nation's founding between those who want to keep things that way and those who believe in a broader democracy and have fought for changes in that imbalance of supposedly inalienable rights. The Civil War was a step in the right direction. The failed ‘reconstruction’ following it was a step backwards.
I wonder if those opposed to such changes, mostly Republicans, will treat this non-partisan statement about the health of democracy just as they treat the rule of law, merely another obstacle that stands in their way?
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Must Reading: Hot Dogs!
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Racism, Blacks, and Jews
Here is an excerpt from a lengthy article (’Whiteness as Property’ by Cheryl I. Harris) printed in the Harvard Law Review thirty years ago. It consists of its ‘abstract,’ summing up the article’s ideas. They are important today. The underlined portions of the section in red translate today as part of what is known as Critical Race Theory.
‘Issues regarding race and racial identity as well as questions pertaining to property rights and ownership have been prominent in much public discourse in the United States. In this article, Professor Harris contributes to this discussion by positing that racial identity and property are deeply interrelated concepts. Professor Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law. Professor Harris traces the origins of whiteness as property in the parallel systems of domination of Black and Native American peoples out of which were created racially contingent forms of property and property rights. Following the period of slavery and conquest, whiteness became the basis of racialized privilege - a type of status in which white racial identity provided the basis for allocating societal benefits both private and public in character. These arrangements were ratified and legitimated in law as a type of status property. Even as legal segregation was overturned, whiteness as property continued to serve as a barrier to effective change as the system of racial classification operated to protect entrenched power. Next, Professor Harris examines how the concept of whiteness as property persists in current perceptions of racial identity, in the law's misperception of group identity and in the Court's reasoning and decisions in the arena of affirmative action. Professor Harris concludes by arguing that distortions in affirmative action doctrine can only be addressed by confronting and exposing the property interest in whiteness and by acknowledging the distributive justification and function of affirmative action as central to that task.’
I am including it in the blog because it points up something not mentioned by me in a book recently reviewed in Jackspotpourri, ‘Bad Jews’ by Emily Tamkin. (See the August 12, 2023, posting.)
That book relates the story of the large number of Jews, and conflicts among them, who have immigrated to the United States, especially from the 1890s up until the institution of immigration quotas by nationality in 1924, a misguided conservative effort to promote American homogeneity that was the law until 1952.
Historically, many of our laws have been discriminatory toward Native Americans, Asians, Mexicans, and most of all, Blacks. (That’s what the Harvard Law Review article is about, associating ‘whiteness’ with property rights, something our laws have always protected.) But that leads to one question.
How is it then that Jews have almost always been able to immigrate to the United States in vast numbers (except from when the 1924 quota system was begun until after World War Two), while other minority groups were mostly discriminated against?
Ms. Tamkin pointed out that insofar as our immigration laws were concerned, being ‘white’ originally was a key criterion. (This applied to voting as well for a long time.) And Jews fleeing Europe for a variety of reasons throughout our history, even before the Holocaust, and after it, have met that criterion. In the light of our laws, they were white.
Some students of history believe that the inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) specified in the Declaration of Independence were intended for white males who owned property, and for no one else. That described men like Thomas Jefferson, who wrote those words. But it also described male Jews who owned property, and also who were white! And that opened gates that might otherwise have been closed to Jewish immigration. Ms. Tamkin makes that point in her book, almost apologetically, with a ‘better-left-unsaid’ approach. Nowadays, such discrimination is no longer the rule, but history is hard to erase.
This may explain why some Blacks in this country today see a weakening of the ties that traditionally connected their struggle against discrimination with that of Jews, including Biblical ones, and rather see them as part of the white majority that historically has discriminated against them.
The academic influence of what later has come to be called Critical Race Theory, as found in the Harvard Law School article captioned above (go back and read what I have underlined in it), and the 1619 Project (A New York Times Magazine compilation of essays marking the four hundredth anniversary of the introduction of Black slavery to North America), while not antisemitic, contributed to this change in attitude among some Blacks.
The undeniable and irrefutable evidence that both Blacks and Jews have been the victims of prejudice in the United States, and that many Jews have fought hard, some even being murdered, for guaranteeing the civil rights of Blacks, have taken a back seat to the fact that to many Blacks, Jews are not in the same boat as they are because, … Jews are, with few exceptions, white, and that made all the difference in the world in how they came to cross the ocean, arrive in the United States, and their fate once they got here.
This even extends to an animosity toward the State of Israel, which many on our far left, including Blacks, consider to be an ‘apartheid’ nation and is becoming a challenge to unity within the Democratic Party, something Republicans are not adverse to using to their advantage.
(I can see that there is enough in this story to provide something to chew upon in future postings. Your comments, for publication in this blog, are welcome.)
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Elon Musk Revisited
I try to avoid referring back to earlier postings, but take a look at my August 29th posting, in which I included an article by Ronan Farrow on Elon Musk. I concluded my comments with these words: ‘There is something about him now that doesn’t ring quite true.’ Well, I read the newspapers and watch the news (and you should too) and Musk is getting further and further away from ‘ringing true’ with each passing day.
He may not be a fascist or an antisemite, but the access he provided on Twitter (which he bought) to fascists and antisemites and now provides on its replacement, ‘X’ (a swastika with the small extensions removed from the ends of the two crossing lines? … or is that only my fertile imagination at work) seems to be something about which he doesn’t give a damn.
Criticism, it seems, offends Musk’s ego and that is dangerous. When he uses his power to affect the war in Ukraine, he is acting independently of our government. He cannot have his own foreign policy, just because the government has farmed out part of our space program to him.
(There may be a loose analogy there to Russia having farmed out part of its military operations to the Wagner Group, which eventually got 'too big for its britches,' resulting in its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, dying in an 'accidental' plane crash.)
At this point, I consider Elon Musk to be comparable to an unsupervised eight-year-old playing with matches in an un-swept sawmill.
And what would you do with such a child?
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Trivia Quiz #5 – Presidential Wives
See how many of the first names of the fifteen most recent ‘first ladies’ from Mrs. Roosevelt (Franklin’s wife, not Teddy’s) to Mrs. Biden you can name, preferably in chronological order.
And here are the answers to Trivia Quiz #4:
1. Pennsylvania Avenue - Washington
2. Beale Street - Memphis
3. Sunset Boulevard – Los Angeles
4. Basin Street – New Orleans
5. The Street Where You Live – In the Broadway musical,’ My Fair Lady.’ (Eliza Doolitle lived there.)
6. Arthur Avenue – NYC – the Bronx
7. Kensington Avenue – St. Louis, where the ‘Girl Next Door’ lived (at least in the movie, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis.’)
8. Biscayne Boulevard - Miami
9. 42nd Street – NYC - Manhattan
10. Peachtree Street – Atlanta
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