The Former Slave Who Loved the Constitution
“The Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.” These words were delivered by a former slave. The all-caps emphasis was his. In an 1852 speech entitled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July the inimitable Frederick Douglass called out the evil of slavery while praising an undeniable instrument of liberation: the U.S. Constitution.
What better time to talk about a liberating Constitution than during Constitution Week?
If you visit the National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s (NMAAHC) online exhibit of Douglass’ Fourth of July speech, you won’t see or hear any mention of the Constitution. Of course, it’s not the first or last time that the Smithsonian will suppress history. Remember, NMAAHC is the same museum that heavily pushes racist “White Privilege” rhetoric and the infamous (now removed) “Whiteness and White Culture” infographic that proclaimed having a hard work ethic, intact married family, and using objecting rational thinking were “white.”
We live in an America that is vastly changed from the one in 1852. Too many enjoy being bound up in the past as they refuse to see the profoundly altered present and choose to cast a painfully divisive future.
Former NFL antagonist and activist, Colin Kaepernick, loves trotting out the pre-abolition excerpts from this Douglass’ speech in an attempt to justify his fake oppression as a multi-million-dollar brand ambassador for Nike (an actual oppressor that profits from forced labor) and former professional athlete. Douglass rightfully denounces the failure of our nation’s political and religious leaders to live up to our national creed and Biblical principles. However, anti-America progressives ignore the hope offered in Douglass’ fiery address: “Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.”
If a former slave can say he does not despair, why do modern-day, self-proclaimed (celebrity) victims constantly portray America as a place of oppression, doom and gloom? Douglass continued: “‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”
What are the obvious tendencies of this age?
With the rise of socialism and communism in our public schools, the solidifying of Marxism in our colleges and universities, and the celebration of tyrannical regimes like China in Hollywood and professional sports, leftist tendencies seem to want to “burn down the system.” Literally.
Ruth Colker, the Distinguished University Professor and Heck Faust Memorial Chair in Constitutional Law at Ohio State University, has a radically different take than Douglass. She calls the Law of the Land the “White Supremacist Constitution.” Colker, who is white, writes: “The United States Constitution is a document that, during every era, has helped further white supremacy. Rather than understand the document as a force for progressive structural change, we should understand it as a barrier to change. Put differently, the U.S. Constitution has been a resounding success at preserving white supremacy. For example, U.S. citizens in the District of Columbia, who are disproportionately racial minorities, are provided no power in the U.S. Senate,while the former slave-holding states of Alabama and Mississippi have as much Senatorial power as California and New York.”
There’s that hopeless and historically-challenged progressivism. The Senate is intentionally meant to have equal representation from each state; Colker doesn’t mention that the House’ representation is based on population. You would think a “distinguished” professor would know these basic facts. Also, the Constitution was ratified in 1788. The District of Columbia wasn’t created until 1790. In 1800 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 70% of DC was white. DC didn’t become a majority-black city until 1957.
But we can’t let historical accuracy get in the way of political zealotry.
New York Times bestselling author and anti-racism evangelist, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, wants to pass an “anti-racism” amendment to our Constitution. Kendi has expressed the only way to fight (alleged) discrimination is with more (actual) discrimination. He believes his Critical Race Theory approach to governance is the way forward: “To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals.” In his Politico Op-ed, Kendi duplicitously demands that “we have to prevent public officials from dividing Americans through racist ideas” as his best-selling books undeniably divide people by color.
Kendi’s worldview is hostile to that of Dr. Martin Luther King. With “anti-racism”, content of character no longer matters; color is supreme. Yet Dr. King, who actually experienced the codified systemic racism that Kendi pretends to face, had this to say about nonviolent activism and the Constitution in his I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech: “And I knew that as they were sitting in [at the lunch counter], they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”
The concepts of liberty espoused in our Declaration of Independence and our amendable Constitution are worth defending and celebrating. Combined with our rich Judeo-Christian heritage, they make America an exceptional nation that draws more people worldwide than any other nation.
Douglass impacted millions in his lifetime with his indefatigable advocacy for human equality. His words have generational reverberations. He influenced a President – a friend – who continually evolved on the issue of race because of Douglass’ faith-based convictions and eloquence. Abraham Lincoln so presciently summed upthe power of We The People: “The people — the people — are the rightful masters of both Congresses and Courts — not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.”