It’s long been believed democracy cannot legislate morality. As much as the government wants to, it cannot enact laws in the hopes people will want to behave morally, to want to be better people, to be upstanding citizens. The desire to be a good person has to come from within. A person has to want to change for the better. No one can do it for them, least of all the government.
But this is not entirely true. The suffragettes demanded society to give women right to vote, so the 19th Amendment was enacted. When white people finally woke up to the fact where slavery is an abominable crime violating the most common tenets of human rights, after a bloody war, it was finally abolished on January 31, 1865 and the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery became the law of the land. With slavery abolished another form of enslavement came in the form of Jim Crow Laws which lasted until 1965. The Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 put the final nail in the coffin for segregation in public education, the notion of ‘separate but equal’ was deemed unconstitutional by the highest court in the land and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted and followed by The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which “suspended the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices for five years. Authorized the use of federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states that used tests or in which less than half the voting-eligible residents registered or voted. Directed the U.S. Attorney General to institute proceedings against use of poll taxes. Provided criminal penalties for individuals who violated the act. Passed by the 89th Congress (1965–1967) as S. 1564.” Between these major pieces of legislature which passed through Congress, there were many other smaller civil rights act bills which were passed.
In enacting civil rights laws, this country decided to legislate morality. The legislative body of this country (with or without the support of its citizens) decided de jure segregation is unconstitutional. ‘Separate but equal’ is unconstitutional. Labeling public facilities as ‘white’ and ‘colored’ is unconstitutional and denying any form of service (public or private) on the account of race is unconstitutional. The end of Jim Crow, separate but equal, ended de jure segregation of the South. All of these are moral stances made legal. It was clear the citizens of the South was not going to come to a moral conclusion on their own without the coercion of the federal government and if left matters up to them, the South would still be legally segregated.
Any progress this country has made on civil rights and racial equality was done with the federal government’s boots up the behind of state and local governments. The civil rights laws were almost always enacted with federal mandate often with federal supervision. The laws desegregating the South were not popular at all. In fact, in some quarters today, it’s still not popular and I don’t mean the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, fresh from his senate win in 2010 said this:
“I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership,” he said.
He added that he agrees any publicly-funded entities should not be allowed to discriminate, but the law shouldn’t necessarily apply to private businesses. “And that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.”
So how would he resolve the problem? Consistent with his small-government philosophy, he said it should be up to the people to self-correct the issue.
“In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior. But if we’re civilized people, we publicly criticize that and don’t belong to those groups, or don’t associate with those people,” he added.
Rand Paul is part of the deluded group people who believe society can ‘self-correct’ centuries of entrenched racism and white supremacy. He, like his equally delusional father, former Rep. Ron Paul, believes The Civil Rights Act didn’t really improve race relations but it took away personal liberty instead. Yes, it is technically violating someone’s ‘personal liberty’ if they don’t want to serve non-whites in their establishments and be forced to do so because of federal law, but what they are doing besides being racist and immoral can possibly be illegal (if the service denied can be life saving). This logic can be applied to almost any instance when one is being affronted with or asked to do something they don’t want to do. For example, it’s a personal affront to me the likes of the Pauls’ still spew this kind of thinly veiled racist propaganda, and I consider it to violate my personal liberties for having to countenance such kind of people, but there’s not a damn thing I can do about them either.
The Black Lives Matter movement is the civil rights movement of today. It’s the continuation of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Black people, when compared to whites are at every disadvantage. Black people are incarcerated more even though crime is committed in equal rates. Black communities are policed more, thus leading to more arrests, incarceration and killings (of alleged suspects). Black people have twice the unemployment rate of whites. During the Great Recession, black people lost more wealth than whites because black people were subjected to the sub-prime mortgage scam more than whites even if their credit was good. Black children are being left behind in the education system because of the school-to-prison pipeline that’s meted out to black children. Black children are seen as more ‘criminal’ than their white counterparts thus punished more severely for the same offense as white kids. Young black men as a whole demographic has been criminalized and locked away for the simple fact in which they are young and black. The whole ‘war on drugs’ was just away to lock up brown and black people for minor drug offenses which white people can get away with a slap on the wrist. In Ta-Nehisi Coate’s opus (one of many), The Case for Reparations: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole, just the title alone hits nail on the head. Especially the last part, ‘Thirty-five years of racist housing policy’, the redlining which occurred have denied black people the one tried and tested method in which to generate family wealth: home ownership. FHA (Federal Housing Authority) when building homes in the suburbs of America’s cities in the 1950s and 1960s have shut out black people from purchasing affordable homes because white folks don’t want to live in neighborhoods where there are black people.
All of this was carried out under the watch of our government. Our government knew this was going on and choose to do nothing about it so it won’t upset the status quo (white supremacy). The Black Lives Matter exists to redress these wrongs and these wrongs won’t be corrected from the grassroots level. The grassroots level is good for organizing, but it needs to go all the way to the top. Interrupting Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton’s campaign rallies won’t do a damn thing. Change has to come from the top, from Congress, from executive orders, new laws have to be written and enacted. Existing laws have to be enforced and existing rights cannot be taken away (Voting Rights Act).
Every single police department in this country needs to be examined and reviewed. Racist cops and racist policing policies must be eradicated and subject to federal review. If we have to remove the jurisdiction of local police departments from local government to the federal government, then so be it. If it’s ‘bad for business’, so be it. The Civil Rights Act was ‘bad for business’ too but it was enforced with the National Guard and the army standing guard if necessary. The administration then made sure it got done.
Unfair housing practices needs to be addressed at the federal level right away. The notion that black and brown neighborhoods equals ‘bad’ neighborhood needs to be corrected and it can only come from the top. Neighborhoods do not need to have fixed quotas of different ethnicities (like Singapore model) but the notion which neighborhoods resided by black and brown people automatically constitutes a deprived, crime ridden and all around ‘bad’ neighborhood, therefore, that said neighborhood gets policed more aggressively is racist. Poor white neighborhoods aren’t policed in such a manner, police only come when they are called.
The education system where teachers (mostly non-black) automatically criminalize black children needs to be stopped. This fake feigning fear of black people, especially black boys and black men by white people is misplaced fear, discriminatory, racist and disgusting. The notion which black communities need to clean house in order to gain respect and deserve the most basic of human rights downright ugly and mirrors the policies of some of the most repressive regimes in the world. People deserve human rights and civil rights regardless of who they are and what they do. Be they, drug addicts, derelicts, delinquents, homeless persons, unemployed layabouts or criminals, all people deserve human rights, civil rights, due process, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, even if they are a waste of space to begin with. Besides, being a waste of space is not race or gender specific. This is what our constitution affords every person, not just white people. After all, white people don’t have to prove they are worthy to deserve the inalienable rights conferred to them by the Founding Fathers, why do non-white people have to prove they deserve these rights.
One often hears from women and minorities, in order to get ahead, they have to work twice as hard, twice as long, never complain and put up with all kinds of indignities until they ‘make it’, this shouldn’t be the case. If a white male of average talent, average ambition and drive can coast through life easily, without having to sacrifice his dignity, why isn’t that afforded to all people? Why do black people, latinos, Asians have to double down and work harder to prove they are worthy of their success?
LaSha of the Kinfolk Kollective wrote so eloquently regarding the ‘need’ of black leadership:
FUCK YOUR LEADERSHIP! The black community does not need leadership. We do not need one spokesperson for us all. We do not need a high counsel through whom all of our concerns are heard. We do not need a few of the talented tenth to represent the most educated, most financially successful, most dignified of us so that we can be taken seriously and respected. We do not need a majority to agree on a few prominent black people as the point people to make a statement when tragedy strikes.
What we need is full status as human beings. What we need is recognition of us as people whether we be crackhead or reverend, nun or prostitute, high school dropout or rocket scientist. What we need is to be recognized as a group of individuals representing the full spectrum of humanity. What we need is to not to be painted as monolith with the same needs, dreams and desires. We need full personhood and collective humanity.
“We need full personhood and collective humanity”, this says it all. And do we walk around asking where’s the ‘white’ leadership for the white trash who lay around and collect welfare and food stamps (the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white people)? Or the Asian leadership for the Asians who are not top performers? Or the Latino leadership outside of fighting for immigrant’s rights? Where do we get this notion that black people, as a collective people, need some special kind of ‘leadership’ because they are individually too weak to lead themselves and their own lives?
There will always be racists walking around this earth, be they the garden variety kind, the rabid foaming at the mouth KKK kind, or the kind who is indifferent to the suffering of black people, we can’t stop them, nor should we, it’s a total waste of time. The only way to stop these sorts of racists getting their way in society is by force, by the power of the federal government to come from Washington with their suits, badges and guns and lay down the law, just like they did when they escorted Ruby Bridges to an all white school in Alabama. The white people today don’t think segregation is an abomination because they or their parents had a moral awakening and told them so. No, they think it’s unacceptable today because our government told them it’s unacceptable and enforced laws to change it. The same will be true for today, police departments will not reform themselves unless their jobs and department are being threatened with extinction. People in charge of housing and planning will not develop a conscience overnight and begin to apply nondiscriminatory housing laws properly, they will change when the boss upstairs demands full transparency of their daily operations and threaten their positions if they do not comply.
So, to all the libertarians out there who favor governments to stay out of people’s lives and institutions, and believe utopia will then reveal itself through the goodwill of the people, you are wrong. If America was left to its own devices, if no Civil War was ever fought to end slavery, if the civil rights marches, protests, sit-ins never took place therefore demanded action from President Johnson himself, and if Black Lives Matter never came to be due to the tragic murders of black men and boys, the plight of black people (and all other minorities) would still be stuck in 19th century barbarities.