[It appears this did not go out last night. My apologies.] On July 9, 1868, Americans changed the U.S. Constitution for the fourteenth time, adapting our foundational document to construct a new nation without systematic Black enslavement. In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution had prohibited slavery on the basis of race, but it did not prevent the establishment of a system in which Black Americans continued to be unequal. Backed by President Andrew Johnson, who had taken over the presidency after an actor had murdered President Abraham Lincoln, white southern Democrats had done their best to push their Black neighbors back into subservience. So long as southern states had abolished enslavement, repudiated Confederate debts, and nullified the ordinances of secession, Johnson was happy to readmit them to full standing in the Union, still led by the very men who had organized the Confederacy and made war on the United States.
Thank you for this. I am your typical follower. Middle aged, educated white woman who became politically involved for the first time in my life. I’ve lived in Canada for 25 years but I’m terribly concerned about the state of our country. I worry for everyone’s future. I, like many, have family who are trumpy, right wing evangelical “christians”. Their views are so misguided and seemingly without critical thought, it’s torn our family apart. Normally Kind, wonderful people who think that George Floyd got what he deserved because he didn’t do what he was asked. It’s so deeply upsetting. Your letters confirm my worst suspicions about the direction of our country and yet me give hope. Thank you.
We rarely comment here (except on matters of mental health) that our situation in the U.S. exacerbates in many of us. There was a particularly good guest column by a local pastor (and former history major) in our paper this morning. It is about us all being victims of American "Myth-tory". We thought we'd share the link with the group because (1) it's so in sync with Heather and, (2) it was published in a well-read mainstream publication today:
I've never been the first to respond! I so worry that SCOTUS will eventually strip away rights for many, not just people of color, but gay, transgender people, women. Already Texas has passed and Abbott has signed a law that allows anyone to sue a person who aids a woman getting an abortion after 6 weeks. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/09/us/abortion-law-regulations-texas.html. Apparently this is a difficult law to challenge as there is no way to determine who to challenge. This is just the beginning of the stripping of rights we hold as citizens of this country. Voting rights are not far behind.
As this 78-year-old white former Birmingham, Alabama practicing attorney recalls, promising to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with religious conservatives had a lot to do with Donald Trump getting elected in 2016. White religious conservatives, it turned out. The jury's still out on how far the Trump-packed SCOTUS will go in voting cases. The jury is in on Trump made white supremacists great again in America. Look at photos of the Charlottesville Confederate monuments rally while Trump was president. Look at photos of MAGA rallies before, during and after Trump was president. Seas of white people. Look at the white Jan 6 mob Trump egged on to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden had won. Look at how most Republicans in Congress sided with Trump in claiming the 2020 election was stolen. Unsaid, by blacks. Not long ago, I did that laundry list on Facebook with photos of those white seas, to which I added a photo of a Klansman in full dress raising left hand in a heil. Facebook put me in jail for the Klansman photo violating its community standards.
Such an important letter on why originalists on SCOTUS are so dangerous right now. Should be required reading!
Dr. Richardson, This post is so good. I could teach for two or three class periods at almost any grade level just with what you’ve provided here. I want you to know that I am deeply committed to bringing your work into K-12 classrooms and to teenagers especially via any and all means. I’m wondering what your reaction to this would be. I feel that the key to safeguarding our democracy is to be found in increasing the percentage of voters between 18 and 29. Currently, it is very low. These young people are overwhelmingly liberal/progressive/humanistic/democratic. Evrn galvanizing the 18-21 vote would fix many problems. Each year, approximately 5 million kids in the US turn 18. Across a four-year election cycle, that’s 20 million new voters. I have seen surveys suggesting that this group—just 18-21 year olds voters—votes approximately 80% for democratic candidates. But that less than 25% of them vote. Moving that percentage merely to 50% would “solve”, I believe, the current crisis of a minority of the country holding the majority hostage and turning our democracy into an autocracy, a theocracy, an oligarchy, and poddibly even a Russian-style kleptocracy. The key to catalyzing the youth vote is getting your message, and the messages of other authorities like you, into the minds and hearts of teenagers. I’ll do everything I can to make this happen. I’ve worked in education in every US state. I’ve worked in every subject and at every grade level in thousands of schools and tens of thousands of classrooms. I also know how to reach teens outside of the education system. This is the key, I believe, to permanently ensuring the existence and health health of our democracy. Kind regards, Steve Peha, Founder, Teaching That Makes Sense
The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to grant all rights, privileges, and immunities granted to U.S. citizens by the Constitution and prevent individual states from abridging or restricting those rights. This is known as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment and is stated in Section 1 of that amendment as follows:
"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."
It now seems Justice Alito's recent SCOTUS majority opinion in the Brnovich vs. Democratic National Committee decision has perverted this original intent. The SCOTUS majority opinion has apparently ruled that unintentional racism is O.K. by declaring that a differential impact on minorities resulting from state legislation permitted so long as the legislation does not make that distinction based on race. This certainly seems to be a case of the State denying equal protection by depriving a person of their Constitutional rights, in this case, voting rights, without due process. Justice Kagan's strongly stated minority opinion, in this case, makes that point quite clearly.
It is now time to reinforce the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment with federal voting rights legislation nationalizing voting rights standards in accordance with Section 5 of the 14th that states, "The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."
The 14th amendment says Equal Protection Under Law means equal rights for all, and all means all. It does not state, nor did it intend to make unintentional racism O.K.
Just spent the night ala HCR mode, studying the bill line by line and writing up my recommendations for Texas HB 3 - Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021. It is being discussed and testimony taken in a committee hearing this morning in the Texas legislature. The committee is chaired by my state representative. I put a lot of emphasis on the Poll Watcher provisions of the bill which basically gives "certified" poll watchers with no training carte blanche to observe everything going on including driving behind a car taking ballots from one location to another. And the presiding election officials are restricted and criminally liable if they try to remove an unruly poll watcher for example. I had a number of recommendations on the poll watchers having basically the same training as the election workers so they understand what is going on in the voting process. And, put some restrictions on the poll watchers -- like keeping their distance from voters trying to keep their vote confidential. The good news is the bill is considerably better than the one that would have been voted on on May 30 the last day of the legislative session where the Democrats broke quorum by walking out. So, certainly some gains here, but still some worries. Now time for a nap. It does feel good to know my voice is going to be heard.
Thank you Heather.
I did read this on my Facebook feed last night. Wonderful Letter.
What impresses me most is how little we have come in this concern.
It's groundhog day, all over again.
Be safe, be well.
I had not thought of the “Originalists” as wanting to undo the 14th amendment, but of course, it makes sense. Only white men of property should be able to vote and govern, that’s the “original” idea. Reading HCR’s essay today, after reading Rolling Stone’s story on Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s decades long mission to undo voting rights (https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/supreme-court-john-roberts-voting-rights-brnovich-dark-money-1194487/) reenforces the idea that conservative Republicans are still trying to restore the Confederacy. When do conservatives stop fighting the Civil War?
Thank you. Your insight brings a rush of relief.
We who love our nation must be adamant about protecting the living instrument that is the Constitution.
The Originalists develop an artificial body of Law that is represented by the the specter of the Dred Scott Decision.
As you and others havepointed out, Heather, we are still fighting the Civil War. The real, perhaps eternal Civil War, is between “greed is good” and “love thy neighbor as thyself”, between our basest, most self-centered passions and “the better angels of our nature."
It’s surprising how much I have come to enjoy and depend on your insights to start my day; I woke up this morning and opened my tablet to check the weather and make sure the world had not ended overnight, and my first words were “where’s Heather?” Thank you for being there.
Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose -- a pessimistic French expression which means "the more things change, the more they stay the same". I'm afraid that applies to America and racism.
Yet again Professor HCR educates and illuminates the lengthy threads about government of, by and for some US citizens. The domains of power, money and influence, once solely inhabited by white men, are on shaky ground, as well they should be.
Their fight to keep control is far from over, and the outcome of the battle is unsure. However, the restriction/loss of voting rights and of bodily autonomy (restriction/loss of abortion rights) are two key weapons
Is it that simple, that this boils down to control of others by white people? My brother and my stepfather displayed ‘master and commander’ traits; my tendency to question, to dissent often resulted in side-eye from my stepfather. We had a lot of fun together, and he respected me; however, what he seemed to feel most acutely about me was threatened because I wouldn’t simply comply, as did his daughters. Ditto his employees. Simple control, indeed, which must be as intoxicating, seductive and addictive as absinthe, and the green fairy it conceals.
I used to worry something was wrong. Now I know it’s just an occasional ball drop by a master juggler. You do so much, all of it good. Thank you.