While it is true that the U.S. Constitution does not mention race, in 1857, United States Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney wrote the above statement for the court’s majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford, the case of a black man who sued for his freedom based on the fact that he was enslaved in a state that prohibited slavery.
Instead of deciding the merits of the case, the highest court in the land ruled against an act of Congress for only the second time in history. The court basically decided that white people were so far superior to black people; the Constitution never intended to recognize them as citizens, or even humans and, as a consequence, black people had no legal standing to sue in court.
The Dred Scott decision essentially codified white supremacy and even though the court has officially changed its opinion since 1857, America has not.
In the wake of another mass shooting, this time at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., conservatives are once again circling the wagons around to protect their Constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights. They have offered their thoughts and prayers and warned Americans not to politicize the deaths of the innocent victims who died because of this country’s love affair with guns.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the highest elected official in the country, along with the Republican party that controls all three branches of government, continue to lambaste black NFL athletes who kneel during the national anthem in a desperate plea for the country to recognize injustice and inequality. The NFL has silenced the players free speech because fans don’t want their sport politicized over the disproportionate deaths of black bodies.
But following acts of terrorism, like the New York bike path attack, Republicans disregarded the constitutional edicts governing freedom of religion, by advocating for tough immigration and anti-terrorist laws. After the death of Mollie Tibbetts, the GOP immediately disregarded due process and used the fact that the man accused of killing Tibbetts is allegedly an undocumented worker to push their ethnic-cleansing, child-snatching political agenda.
Black protesters are vilified as disrespecting the troops, the flag and the anthem when they use their First Amendment rights in an attempt to save black lives. Like the 1857 Supreme Court, Republicans believe Muslims and the children of border-crossing Mexican immigrants are criminals who don’t deserve the right to due process.
But when a white gunman goes berserk, don’t even insinuate the need for gun control or you’ll be painted as “un-American.” They will accuse you of trying to politicize a death. You can only offer thoughts and prayers, not actual solutions because they will make one thing clear:
The Constitution is for white people.
To be clear, the Second Amendment right to own firearms is a privilege only afforded to white Americans. Due process is a white thing, as is being free to practice your religion as long as you worship a blue-eyed Jesus who did P90X and used shampoo and conditioner before the last supper.
White immigrants like Melania Trump (who used the same “chain migration” law vilified by Trump) are not dangerous. Even though Dylann Roof committed a massacre in a church, he was not a radical Christian extremist. The Jacksonville shooter wasn’t a terrorist either. He was mentally ill. Or brainwashed. Or ... just white.
After every mass shooting, white people leap in front of any oncoming political vehicle for gun reform. Whether it’s high school students in Parkland, Fla., concert goers in Las Vegas or members of Congress, they will blame the deaths on video games, mental health, the need for good guys with guns or, in the case of one Pennsylvania official, the lack of buckets filled with rocks.
The same people will not jump into action when non-whites are not afforded their constitutional rights to due process and freedom of speech. The outrage that guards white people’s guns ownership rights is invisible when it comes to protecting black and brown bodies.
The NRA did not condemn the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, the law enforcement officer who shot Philando Castile in the head even though Castille did everything by the book. Police in Cleveland called for the temporary suspension of the Second Amendment when black protesters organized an open carry march.
I’ve been searching for a clip of Paul Ryan speaking about Stephon Clark’s right to life and liberty for at least a month. Where is the video of the NRA asking for Harith Augustus’s equal protection under the law? Do NFL players have the right to freedom of speech? What about the illegal deportations of immigrants without due process?
This is nothing new. Since the Dred Scott decision, this country has repeatedly silenced black voices and disrespected their rights for the sake of white sensibilities. Senator James K. Vardaman warned the Senate in 1917 that respecting the rights of black veterans “is but a short step to the conclusion that his political rights must be respected.”
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover initiated the “Counterintelligence Program” (COINTELPRO) with the stated goal to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” black organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party. COINTELPRO also sought to “prevent the rise of a black messiah,” including people like Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Martin Luther King.
Even now, a number of state houses have instituted legislative measures to eliminate black protests, passing laws that fine protesters for blocking traffic and statutes that allow motorists to run over demonstrators.
This silencing and distaste are not limited to the American government. It is white America as a whole. According to a 1963 Gallup Poll, 60 percent of whites had an unfavorable opinion of the proposed March on Washington. A 1966 Harris poll shows that 85 percent of whites agreed that “demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights” hurt their cause.
A 2017 Harvard University Harris poll showed only 35 percent of white Americans had a positive view of Black Lives Matter. Similarly, only 23 percent of Republicans believe that the Trump Administration has been too aggressive in deportations, according to a June Rasmussen poll.
While a vast majority of Americans cite freedom of speech, voting rights and freedom of religion as more “essential to their freedom” than gun ownership, only one of these issues seems to be sacrosanct:
Aside from black people, no one was outraged when the Voting Rights Act was dismantled. When Trump issued a travel ban, there was no multi-billion dollar industry to protect the rights of Muslim immigrants like the NRA does for white gun owners. Donald Trump still rails against NFL players because no one fights for the rights of black protesters. There are still hundreds of immigrant children separated from their parents because no one lobbies for non-white babies.
Non-white people have never had the privilege of exercising the rights afforded to them. Politicians suffer no consequences when they snatch the Constitution away from our hands because when it comes to white people’s guns versus black and brown bodies, they all know:
There is no right which the white man is bound to respect.