Category Archives: racism

Quote of the Day: #Ferguson Edition

Here’s a great observation for Lucy Steigerwald writing from Rare:

Whether the shooting of Brown by Wilson was justified or not, it’s important to remember that there were good reasons people distrusted the Ferguson police’s narrative of events.

Police did everything wrong after Brown was killed. They left his body in the street, they refused to answer questions or identify the officer. They used military tech to answer the protests that resulted. They repeatedly teargassed crowds, arresting peaceful protesters and members of the media.

Officer Darren Wilson shouldn’t be punished for the impression that people — especially minorities — have of the police. If he doesn’t deserve prosecution, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Whether he deserves harsh, little, or no punishment is still up for debate.

Read the whole thing. The entire article is worth quoting but I thought I would just wet your beak.

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President Obama Appoints Drug War Opponent To Head DOJ’s Civil Rights Division

President Obama has appointed attorney Vanita Gupta to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. What should be of interest is Ms. Gupta’s opposition to the Drug War and calls for prison reform.

Reason has more:

A drug-war denouncing, prison-reform crusading, longtime civil-rights attorney is President Obama’s new pick to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Venita Gupta, 39, will take over as acting assistant attorney general for civil rights next week, and the White House will likely propose making it permanent within the next few months, according to The Washington Post.

Gupta has called the drug war “disastrous”, the asset forfeiture program “broken”, and police militarization “out of control”. She supports marijuana decriminalization and eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing. “It’s time for states to end the costly criminalization of marijuana and recalibrate sentencing laws so that the punishment actually fits the crime as opposed to a politician’s reelection agenda,” she wrote in a September op-ed for CNN.

This is a positive step from an administration that has been all talk on drug policy. While it is unknown if Gupta supports legalization, even just moving towards an approach of decriminalization, eliminating mandatory minimums, and reining in police militarization and the asset forfeiture program would be a very big positive step for civil liberties.

There has been one positive to the Eric Holder Justice Department, which is that the Holder Justice Department has been relentless in launching civil rights investigations in response to police brutality committed by local law enforcement. Gupta’s record and previous writings show that she would be as aggressive in this role as her predecessor, which is a very good thing.

All in all, this is a very good appointment by the Obama Administration that should be praised by anyone concerned with civil liberties.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Jewish Registration: Truth or Anti-Russian Propaganda?

It seems that the world is yet another step closer to World War III as reports have circulated the globe that Eastern Ukrainians loyal to Russia are now requiring Jews to register and pay a special tax. Even Secretary of State John Kerry has made pronouncements condemning these actions.

But what if this registration story isn’t true but merely anti-Russian propaganda?

According to The Times of Israel, the pro-Russian separatists are denying any such attempts to force Jews to register or pay a special tax:

Pro-Russian separatists from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine denied any involvement in the circulation of flyers calling on Jews to register with separatists and pay special taxes.

The flyers were official-looking documents that carried what was presented as Pushilin’s signature, but the news site tvrain.ru on Wednesday quoted Pushilin as denying any connection to the flyers, calling them a provocation.

[…]

On Tuesday, the news website novosti.dn.ua reported that the flyers were handed out that day by three unidentified men in balaclava masks carrying a flag of the Russian Federation.

According to the report, the men distributed the flyers next to a local synagogue. The website quoted unnamed sources from the local Jewish community as saying that the flyers were an attempt to provoke a conflict and blame the attack on the separatists.

Is this really what is going on, some sort of false flag operation on the part of those opposed to Russia so that the U.S. and others will take a harder line?

I think it’s very possible and even plausible. In war, propaganda is an important weapon and practically all governments and revolutionaries use it (you know, to win “hearts and minds” and discourage the enemy). The truth is that I don’t feel like I can trust anything news related coming out of that part of the world. Even though Putin is not necessarily a great person, and even though the Russian government is corrupt, does not necessarily mean that every piece of news that makes Russia or the Russian separatists look bad is true.

Hat Tip: Antiwar.com

Phil Robertson Says Something Offensive—But It’s Not The Thing Everyone’s Focusing On

Uhh, I’m confused. Everyone’s making a huge stink over what Phil Robertson said about gays. But you know what I don’t hear? An exhortation to return sodomy laws, or any comments on gay marriage, or the idea that he chooses to “hate” gays or endorses violence against them.

It’s clear he considers homosexuality to be a sin, but I thought this quote was interesting:

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Granted, putting gays and terrorists into the same category is a bit offensive, especially to a drunk like myself!

But fundamentally, everything is couched in the desire to save people from—not to punish them for—their sinfulness.

No… Where Robertson goes *REALLY* off the rails is the quote which oddly nobody seems to be focusing on:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

That shows an insensitivity and an ignorance that is a lot more disturbing. That remark is the one sweeping centuries of unequal treatment by the state under the rug.

As an atheist, I think Robertson is wrong about gays. But he seems to be wrong for reasons that any Christian should be wrong—if you truly care about your fellow man, you should be trying to save them from their wickedness. The basis of Christianity—original sin—declares that we are all wicked, all in need of saving. I don’t think Robertson would ever claim that his life is so perfect that he doesn’t need saving grace.

But the second statement is much more offensive IMHO. That’s the one that tries to put a pretty face on centuries of racist discrimination, slavery, and Jim Crow. Yes, Phil, maybe blacks weren’t constantly complaining (to you, the white guy) about their mistreatment. Yes, maybe they were seeking solace in God, as those facing tough times have done for millenia. Yes, maybe they tried to focus on the things they could control—their attitude, leading a rich life with family and friends—rather than what they can’t control, i.e. the legal apparatus around them.

But that doesn’t mean we should act like it didn’t happen and it wasn’t there. True godliness would be for Robertson to accept that those bad things happened in the past, to remember that Christianity is not a doctrine of separation and of discrimination, and to exhort society to ensure that such mistreatment of our fellow men should never happen again.

Quote of the Day: No Winners Edition

Ultimately, it is the job of the media to give straight, objective coverage of any story.

Whatever the final verdict on Zimmerman, the media is clearly guilty of playing on the most primitive racial divisions in our society to fuel racial animosity and boost ratings.

There are no winners here. -Juan Williams

Related: Justice for Martin, Zimmerman is More Important than Anyone’s Damned Political Agenda

Your Ox Will Eventually Be Gored

It seems logical that every American, regardless of political affiliation/philosophy, race, religion or creed, would be concerned about the revelations concerning domestic spying on the part of the NSA. If the Obama administration can spy on and mistreat the Tea Party and other right wing causes, the next Republican administration could spy on and mistreat Occupy Wall Street and other left wing causes.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case. According to an article by David A. Love, the black community has largely greeted this news with a shrug and a yawn.

Is this lack of concern because many blacks do not want to be critical of the first black* president? This might account for some of this shrugging but Love suspects that there is something much deeper at work here:

The black community has decades of experience being monitored, so this type of surveillance is nothing new. Given the long history of being spied upon, many blacks already assume they are being monitored by the government […]
[…]
African-Americans are no strangers to surveillance, as their activities were highly regulated through the slave codes, laws which controlled both slaves and free blacks.

The mistreatment of blacks did not end when slavery was abolished, of course. Love goes on to describe several other atrocities such as the Tuskegee experiment, J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal spying on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others.

Tragic chapters such as Tuskegee have been cited as a reason why African-Americans distrust the medical establishment and are hesitant to participate in clinical research. One study found that 67 percent of black parents distrusted the medical profession, compared to half of white parents.

As I read this, I wondered why there isn’t a similar distrust of the government as the medical establishment by blacks in general. The Tuskegee experiments were done at the behest of the U.S. Public Health Service, after all!

After finishing the article, I decided to read through the comments section (this is a blog that is dedicated primarily with concerns of the black community; the comments can sometimes be very illuminating). The very first comment by a user with the handle “Blackheywood Heywood” did not disappoint:

The US government began spying on Black folks before this government was created, yet it was no outrage.Give me a break, it seems slowly mainstream America is discovering how it feels to be thought of as suspicious or guilty before being accused, never mind arrested. Welcome to the world of the American Black male.

Heywood has a valid point. The answer to the question why the lack of outrage by the black community concerning the NSA and IRS scandals could just as easily turned against what Heywood called “mainstream America.” Indeed, where was the right (for lack of a better term) on these outrages? Where has the Tea Party been on the question of “stop and frisk,” in New York in which minorities are especially targeted to be searched, supposedly at random? Is this simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind?”

I believe there’s also another phenomenon at work: the memory hole. Near the close of the article, Love mentioned an event that took place in Philadelphia in 1985 I was completely unaware of:

On May 13, 1985, following a standoff, a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped a bomb on the house on Osage Avenue occupied by the black “radical” group known as MOVE. Police reportedly fired on MOVE members as they escaped the burning home […]
[…]
The 1985 bombing—which killed 11 people, including 5 children and destroyed an entire neighborhood of 61 row homes in West Philadelphia—marked the first such attack on U.S. citizens by government authorities. The survivors and victims’ families received $5.5 million in compensation from the city of Philadelphia.

I try my best to be informed about historical events as well as current events. How is it that this is the first I had ever heard about the Philadelphia Police dropping a freaking bomb on a neighborhood in an American city?** I must have been sick that day in American History class (I also didn’t learn about the Tuskegee experiments until well into my twenties; maybe I was sick on that day as well).

Maybe MOVE was a radical organization maybe it wasn’t*** but nothing could justify the police dropping a bomb on a neighborhood. Perhaps this atrocity is well known by people in the black community, both young and old but not so much outside the black community (or maybe I’m one of the few Americans who never heard about this but I doubt it).

MOVE probably wasn’t the first group the government described as “extreme” to a point where government officials ordered and used military force against its members; it certainly wasn’t the last. How many people out of a hundred know about what happened at Ruby Ridge? The Weaver family, why they were “extremists” after all and therefore, why should anyone care about their rights? How many people out of a hundred know about the conflicting accounts of what really happened at assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas? (Here’s a hint: a great deal more than what the MSM reported at the time). I suppose because these people were part of some sort of cult, their rights didn’t matter either!

This is where the real problem of indifference lies. I’ve heard far too many people with the attitude “it’s not my problem” or “it doesn’t affect me”. Even more disturbing is the attitude some people have that they are happy when someone of an opposing view has his or her rights of life, liberty, and/or property trampled on (i.e. “Screw them, they are ‘extremists’”). Far too often, concerns about civil liberties depend on whose ox is being gored at that particular time.

I would like to humbly suggest that if you are not as upset when its someone else’s ox, even if it’s the ox of your opponent’s, one day it will be your ox that will be gored. Perhaps Martin Niemoller said it best in his very short work “First they Came” describing how the Nazis took freedom away from the whole population, one group at a time. By the time the Nazis got around to taking freedom from what remained of the population, Niemoller concluded “there was no one left to speak for me.”

To be clear, I am not comparing the U.S. government to the Nazis. Such hyperbolic comparisons are not constructive and minimize the very crimes against humanity the Nazis committed. I am making a comparison about how populations respond to encroachments on liberty, however. As demonstrated in Love’s article, there are plenty of examples of injustice from American history.

Here are just a handful more:

  • The Indian Removal Act
  • Slavery
  • The internment of Japanese Americans
  • Jim Crow
  • McCarthyism

And many, many more.

Each of these policies were permitted to happen because the majority apparently felt that curtailing freedoms of these minorities would somehow not affect their own freedoms. We should acknowledge that these injustices occurred and try to learn the right lessons (rather than pretend the U.S. government or the American people have committed no wrongs ever) and move on.

Every injustice and every violation of rights of life, liberty, and property must be answered by all of us as if it’s our own liberty that is at stake.

*Yes, I’m aware that Obama is actually half black. However, if a man of his description was accused of committing a crime and at large, he would be described as a black man.

**In light of this, Rand Paul’s questions about government using drones to attack Americans on American soil no longer seem so far fetched, unfortunately.

***All I know is what I read in the cited article.

Quote of the Day: MLK Day Edition

(Re-post)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is unquestionably one of the most famous speeches in American history. In listening to the speech today, I found the following passages that aren’t as often quoted to be some of the most powerful lines in the speech.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

America has come a long way since King delivered this speech. Racial and ethnic minorities have made great strides thanks to courageous individuals like King who made a stand for liberty and justice (and in King’s case, paid with his life) and we are all better off for it.

Here is the rest of the speech. Listen and be inspired.

Quote of the Day: In Response to Van Jones’ Remarks About “so-called libertarians”

Over at Reason, Mike Riggs responded to President Obama’s former Green Jobs czar Van Jones’ tirade about “so-called libertarians” at an Occupy rally in L.A. In case you missed it, Van Jones said that libertarians “say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings.” Clearly, he has never been to a Libertarian Party convention; I have. These people are more welcome in the LP than either of the big two political parties, I assure you.

Riggs responds:

I’m going to have to mic check you there, Mr. Jones. You’re not talking about so-called libertarians, but your former boss and current president. See, it’s Barack Obama who supports “traditional marriage”; Barack Obama who supports a drug war that sends an alarming number of black men to prison and destroys their employment prospects; Barack Obama who supports a foreign policy that kills children; Barack Obama who supports regulatory barriers that require the poorest of the poor to borrow their way into the workforce; Barack Obama who supports an immigration strategy that rips apart families and sees the children of undocumented workers put up for adoption.

Whether Obama’s support for those policies means he hates gays or brown folk is not for me to say. As the scriptures tell us, “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”

Libertarians, on the other hand, love brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, and immigrants. Many of us, after all, fit rather neatly into those categories, and we show our affection for ourselves and our neighbors by supporting the right of all peoples to live free of state-sponsored violence, discrimination, undue imprisonment, and theft; as well as the entirely predictable consequences of both left-wing and right-wing social engineering.

In fairness to Van Jones, there are a fair number of social conservatives,* NeoCons, and yes, certain unwelcome elements who do advocate these things who try to call themselves libertarians, but damn man. Would it be too much trouble for Jones to go on the series of tubes that is the interweb and do a search on the Libertarian Party Platform before shooting off his mouth about “so-called libertarians”? If so, he would find that true libertarians are the polar opposite of what he described.

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Justice for Martin, Zimmerman is More Important than Anyone’s Damned Political Agenda

Rumor, conjecture, race, debate over the appropriateness of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” (SYG), and the debate over concealed carry among other discussions in the media and social media have taken on lives of their own in fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Protests have sprung up around the country demanding “justice” for the “murder”* of Martin allegedly committed by George Zimmerman who claims that he fired the fatal shot(s) in self defense. Others wonder why this story, because of the racial aspects, receive so much national media attention while cases involving white victims with black suspects do not, implying a politically correct double standard.** To inflame the debate even more, leading presidential candidates have weighed in thus (perhaps) turning this case, not only into a black vs. white issue, but also red vs. blue (or Right vs. Left if you prefer).

These all may be relevant issues for another debate, but should not determine the level of “justice” that will hopefully be determined in a court of law rather than the court of public opinion. Unfortunately, it seems that most people have taken sides without knowing all of the relevant facts of the case. Personally, I haven’t “taken sides” because there is plenty of conflicting accounts of what happened that fateful night and I don’t trust everything that is being reported***.

The real question in the case is, did George Zimmerman truly act in self defense and stand his ground as he claimed? This depends entirely on what actually happened; the factual details in this case (known and unknown) is all that really matter. Neal Boortz wrote perhaps the most balanced piece I have read so far on this case. Here he outlines three possible scenarios of the night in question.

As for the SYG law and the Trayvon Martin case, I haven’t seen anyone else bring this up, but both Trayvon and Zimmerman had the SYG law on their side under the three possible operating scenarios here:

1. George Zimmerman. If Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon, as he claims, he had the legal authority to use deadly force to repel the attack. BUT .. and this is a big but here .. if he was pursuing Trayvon, as he said he was, the SYG law would not protect him from prosecution. Zimmerman wasn’t standing his ground. He was in pursuit. I see no reason for repeal of SYG here because the law will not stand as a defense for what Zimmerman did. By the way …. I heard Juan Williams on Fox News Channel say – not once, but several times — that George Zimmerman had been told by the police to stop his pursuit of Trayvon. First of all, there is no evidence that the 911 dispatcher Zimmerman was talking to was was a police officer. Secondly, the dispatcher didn’t say “Don’t do that.” The dispatcher said “You don’t need to be doing that.” Telling someone that they don’t need to be doing something is quite different from telling someone NOT to do something. Williams should understand this.

2. Trayvon Martin: How would the SYG law stand to protect Trayvon? If Trayvon had noticed he was being followed, and if he elected to flee his pursuer he would have every right to do so. He would also have every right to turn and to confront his pursuer. That would be “standing your ground.” So the rumored testimony of this eyewitness who said he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon pummeling him does not necessarily implicate Trayvon. If he was standing his ground he was acting within the law.

3. Now here’s where it could get complicated. What if Zimmerman had ceased his pursuit of Trayvon and retreated to his car. What if Trayvon then pursued Zimmerman to his car and attacked him. Trayvon would then lose his protection under SYG, just as Zimmerman did when he initiated a pursuit. But if Zimmerman than became the pursued instead of the pursuer, does he then have the SYG law to rely on? That’s an interesting question, and one that I think would have to be put in front of a jury.

Obviously, the number of scenarios of what might have really happened cannot be limited to these three but I think these can serve as a useful starting point for a productive debate.

Can we all agree that if Zimmerman pursued (which by nearly all counts and by the 911 call seems to be the case at least initially) and confronted Martin, Zimmerman was not acting in self defense?

Can we also agree that IF Zimmerman was following Martin and gave reason for Martin to believe Zimmerman was meaning him harm that Martin also had every right to stand his ground and use lethal force if he believed it necessary to defend himself? Would those of you who wholeheartedly believe that Zimmerman was acting in self defense when he fired the shot(s) be defending Martin had HE shot and killed Zimmerman because Martin was in fear for his life?

The third scenario is the most difficult quandary of all but could a reasonable person conclude that maybe they were both in the wrong? Could Zimmerman’s wrongful pursuit be “canceled out” by Martin’s pursuit and attack if Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle? In the event that they both contributed to Martin’s death, what would be the appropriate verdict? In my lay opinion, convicting Zimmerman of murder would be inappropriate here; a good case could be made that he could be guilty of manslaughter though.

With all the conflicting reports in the media, it seems to me that this is hardly a cut and dry case of murder or standing one’s ground. People on all sides of this issue should resist making this about every civil rights sin ever committed by members of various races. This case is about two individuals, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Not Al Sharpton, nor the New Black Panthers, nor bigoted white people racially profiling.

For those of you who are marching for “justice” for Martin, is this truly what you want or do you want revenge? Are you willing to accept the possibility that after a jury (be it grand jury or a jury deciding if Zimmerman is guilty of murder or a lesser charge) hears the evidence that they might determine that there isn’t enough evidence to prove Martin guilty of murder? Like it or not, in our system the accused is supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This means that sometimes people actually do get away with murder. If the state fails to prove Zimmerman is guilty, don’t blame the jury, blame the state for failing to prove his guilt.

For those of you who are certain that Zimmerman was in the right, I pose the same above question to you. Additionally, are you willing to modify your views if the facts turn out to be opposite of your initial thoughts on the case?

It’s high time for everyone to take a deep breath and let the process work and let the chips fall where they may. Justice is more important than your damned political agenda.

» Read more

Quote of the Day: MLK Day 2012 Edition

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is unquestionably one of the most infamous famous speeches in American history. In listening to the speech today, I found the following passages that aren’t as often quoted to be some of the most powerful lines in the speech.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

America has come a long way since King delivered this speech. Racial and ethnic minorities have made great strides thanks to courageous individuals like King who made a stand for liberty and justice (and in King’s case, paid with his life) and we are all better off for it.

Here is the rest of the speech. Listen and be inspired.

Gov. Johnson to Drop Out of G.O.P. Contest and Make LP Run; G.O.P. Establishment Fears Prospect of Paul Victory in Iowa

Libertarian leaning candidates Gary Johnson and Ron Paul are stirring up some trouble for the G.O.P. Gov. Johnson has apparently had enough of the Gary Johnson Rule and his treatment from the establishment. According to Politico Johnson will switch his party registration to the Libertarian Party and make an announcement that he will run for that party’s nomination.

Gary Johnson will quit the Republican primaries and seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead, POLITICO has learned.

The former two-term New Mexico governor, whose campaign for the GOP nomination never caught fire, will make the announcement at a press conference in Santa Fe on Dec. 28. Johnson state directors will be informed of his plans on a campaign conference call Tuesday night, a Johnson campaign source told POLITICO.

[…]

According to a Public Policy Polling survey of New Mexico conducted Dec. 10-12, Johnson as a Libertarian candidate could impact the vote in his home state.

PPP found Johnson would draw between 26 and 30 percent of GOP votes, between 12 and 16 percent of Democratic votes and win independents, in a race with either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich as the GOP nominee.

As for Ron Paul, the establishment G.O.P. is getting very frightened at the prospect of his possible victory in Iowa:

Conservatives and Republican elites in the state are divided over who to support for the GOP nomination, but they almost uniformly express concern over the prospect that Ron Paul and his army of activist supporters may capture the state’s 2012 nominating contest — an outcome many fear would do irreparable harm to the future role of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

[…]

Paul poses an existential threat to the state’s cherished kick-off status, say these Republicans, because he has little chance to win the GOP nomination and would offer the best evidence yet that the caucuses reward candidates who are unrepresentative of the broader party.

“It would make the caucuses mostly irrelevant if not entirely irrelevant,” said Becky Beach, a longtime Iowa Republican who helped Presidents Bush 41 and Bush 43 here. “It would have a very damaging effect because I don’t think he could be elected president and both Iowa and national Republicans wouldn’t think he represents the will of voters.”

If Ron Paul puts an end to this ridiculous caucus system where certain states like Iowa and New Hampshire gets special consideration over the rest of the states, then I say that in itself is a good thing. Referring back to the famous quote of Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” it now appears that Paul is now in the second and third stage because the establishment can no longer ignore him, his support, or his message.

This doesn’t mean the establishment won’t try. The article continues:

Leading Republicans, looking to put the best possible frame on a Paul victory, are already testing out a message for what they’ll say if the 76-year-old Texas congressman is triumphant.

The short version: Ignore him.

“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Gov. Terry Branstad.

“If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”

Go ahead and ignore Ron Paul Gov. Branstad. Ignore him all the way to the White House.

Right wing talk radio, when not ignoring Paul, fight him by framing his supporters as a bunch of wackos. The long knives are coming out. When they aren’t mischaracterizing his sensible foreign policy they now go to the newsletter issue to try to scare away possible supporters. Funny, this wasn’t a topic of conversation until very recently. That’s the price of being a front runner I suppose.

I would only hope that those who are considering supporting Paul on the basis of the newsletter controversy to ask themselves the following question: “Is Ron Paul a racist and does he support the contents of the newsletters?”

If the answer is yes, then by all means don’t vote for Ron Paul.

Paul has disavowed the contents of the newsletters on numerous occasions. While I’m not completely satisfied with how he has handled the newsletter issue, I take him at his word. I don’t think he is a racist. I would even go as far to say that life for people of color would be much improved under a Paul administration than under the Obama administration. For starters, Paul would end the war on (some) drugs and would most likely pardon all non-violent drug offenders – regardless of race.

This is just the beginning. As Paul’s poll numbers raise, buckle up…it’s going to be a rough ride.

Religious Fundamentalists Join In On Anti-Pot Crusade

Just as religious groups played a significant role in revoking the freedom to marry in California, it looks like religious groups are subsequently involved in squashing the freedom to put whatever you want in your own body:

The same day Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca became co-chair, with Dianne Feinstein, of the No on 19 campaign, he held a press conference to announce the arrest of a suspect in a triple murder case in West Hollywood.

Baca used the platform — and his role as sheriff — to further the goals of the political campaign by railing against medical marijuana dispensaries. He said that they had been “hijacked by underground drug-dealing criminals” and that “it is no surprise that people are going to get killed … drugs and violence go together.”

Baca is an enthusiastic advocate of Scientology’s drug treatment programs, which he actively promotes. Baca has close ties to Scientology, and claims to have to trained deputies in his department using Scientology materials. The Scientology website says that it “sponsors” the independent non-profits drug treatment programs Narconon and Criminon, which and are based on “The Fundamentals of Thought” by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

According to a Time Magazine cover story:

Hubbard’s purification treatments are the mainstay of Narconon, a Scientology-run chain of 33 alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers — some in prisons under the name “Criminon” — in 12 countries. Narconon [is a] classic vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult.

Revenues for Narconon and other drug treatment programs are generated in large part by court-ordered rehabilitation for drug users, which would be dramatically reduced if marijuana prohibition ended. Much like other elements of the prison industrial complex, Narconon has campaigned aggressively against medical marijuana over the years.

Every era and generation has a common force of darkness that threatens liberal society. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was aggressive collectivization which resulted in a near dictatorship in the United States and tyrannies in the form of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan and Communist China.

The common thread destroying individual liberty in our own age, from women who are forbidden to go to school, cartoonists who are threatened with death for daring to be creative, religious minorities who are terrorized and loving couples who are forbidden to wed due to their matching chromosomes, is religious fundamentalism. It’s our job to fight it.

Ron Paul Breaks With Son Over Mosque

This is one of the Texas congressman’s best appearances since the heyday of his presidential run. I’ll admit my enthusiasm for him has waned mostly due to his son and a lot of the people who have associated themselves with Paul. Paul himself, however, is consistently a voice of reason over the irrationality and hatred of both political “sides.”

Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Sugar Tariffs

I wanted to link over to a recent article I wrote at the blog Voice of the Migrant, where I talk about the distinguishable products and services that America’s Hispanic immigrants bring to our society:

In a New Yorker article from 2006, James Surowiecki explores how sugar producers in the United States lobbying for “special favors” has resulted in the blocking out of competition and the subsequent degeneration of sugar-laden products:

But American sugar producers aren’t satisfied with supplying the most sweet-hungry population in the world. They’ve relentlessly sought—and received—special favors from the federal government, turning the industry into one of the most cosseted in America today. The government guarantees producers a fixed price for domestic sugar and sets strict quotas and tariffs for foreign sugar. Economically speaking, this has many obvious bad results. It keeps sugar prices in the U.S. at least twice as high as the world average. It makes it harder for companies that use lots of sugar to do business here—in the past decade, an exodus of candy manufacturers from the U.S. has eliminated thousands of jobs. And import restrictions make Third World countries poorer than they’d otherwise be.

The artificially high price of sugar has resulted in the adoption of high fructose corn syrup as a replacement. High fructose corn syrup is rife with many dangers which are not in cane sugar, including high levels of mercury:

In my previous blogs I discuss the findings that there is mercury in a percentage of the hfcs that inhabits so many of our foods and drinks. This is caused from the mercury grade caustic soda that is used in the processing, leaching mercury into the finished product.

Since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the 1970s, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed dramatically. Sugar cane, which is used in Coca-Cola and Pepsi in Mexico and in high-end American sodas such as Jone’s Soda, contains several naturally occurring health benefits.

Magnesium, calcium and riboflavin can all be found within cane sugar. While soda is not meant to be a “healthy” beverage, ingestion of a naturally sweetened carbonated concoction is nevertheless a much better route to go than the watered down corn syrup that is found in American drug stores.

Apart from Jones and other high end sodas, one of the best places to get cane sugar sodas is at your local taco truck. Fortunately for Californians especially, these amazing testaments to the entrepreneurial spirit can be found throughout working class neighborhoods. At the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, there are two taco trucks nearby, with vendors recently opening up in the small shopping center next to the station.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

The Clown Prince of Islam

Reader Clown Prince (whose name I hope comes from a shared affinity for the villain of the DC Comics Universe) recommended an article from Times Online about women converting to Islam. I thought it was worth noting a few things I found prominent in the article. First:

“Our liberal, pluralistic 21st-century society means we can choose our careers, our politics – and we can pick and choose who we want to be spiritually,” explains Dr Mohammad S. Seddon, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Chester. We’re in an era of the “religious supermarket”, he says.

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Seddon. The beauty of our society is that people can choose where they want to live, who they want to associate with and what faith (or no faith) they want to subscribe to. The problem is that there is an extreme element in Islam, and Christianity to a less violent degree, that can’t handle many elements of this pluralism. Many Muslims think criticism of their religion should be outlawed because their faith doesn’t permit it, putting their own faith over the laws of the countries they’ve immigrated to. Many Christians, because they believe homosexuality is a crime, want their views of homosexuality enforced on the rest of society.

The rest of the article documents several women who lived lives of drunken chaos, nihilism and other youthful decadence. It pretty seems like the same story of those who convert to evangelical Christianity:

“At university, I lived the typical student existence, drinking and going clubbing, but I’d always wake up the next morning with a hangover and think, what’s the point?

“It wasn’t until my second year that I met Hussein. I knew he was a Muslim, but we were falling in love, so I brushed the whole issue of religion under the carpet. But six months into our relationship, he told me that being with me was ‘against his faith’.

“I was so confused. That night I sat up all night reading two books on Islam that Hussein had given me. I remember bursting into tears because I was so overwhelmed. I thought, ‘This could be the whole meaning of life.’ But I had a lot of questions: why should I cover my head? Why can’t I eat what I like?

Some people are apparently unable to live a stable, independent life on their own and need to have the constant validation of orthodoxy to keep them in line. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would be good if religious people were to realize that not everyone has this problem. Many of us are moral and refrain from doing drugs and drinking every day simply because it’s self-evidently necessary.

“When people see a white girl wearing a niqab they assume I’ve stuck my fingers up at my own culture to ‘follow a bunch of Asians’. I’ve even had teenage boys shout at me in the street, ‘Get that s*** off your head, you white bastard.’ After the London bombings, I was scared to walk about in the streets for fear of retaliation.

That’s the sort of ignorance and stupidity that needs to be stomped out. A recent roommate of me remarked about the Jihad Jane story that it was surprising that she was white. Islam is and has always been a global religion since its inception.

“For the most part, I have a very happy life. I married Hussein and now we have a one-year-old son, Zakir. We try to follow the traditional Muslim roles: I’m foremost a housewife and mother, while he goes out to work. I used to dream of having a successful career as a psychologist, but now it’s not something I desire.

“Becoming a Muslim certainly wasn’t an easy way out. This life can sometimes feel like a prison, with so many rules and restrictions, but we believe that we will be rewarded in the afterlife.”

Here Aqeela Lindsay Wheeler validates the arguments of Ali and myself. Organized religion makes oppression based on stupid differences like race and gender sustainable because it leaves the believer in acceptance of their lowly status. I’m a little surprised Clown Prince sent me an article where a Muslim convert essentially validates the anti-feminist nature of the faith.

Islamic orthodoxy is antithetical to liberal enlightenment. Islam must remain one faith among many, separate from the state and policy, if we want to remain free and secular. This is a fine line to walk, because the skepticism of Hitchens, Ali, Dawkins or Harris could turn into the conservative racism and xenophobia of Mark Steyn (who actually used Arabs being elected to political positions as an argument for a European downfall in his screed America Alone).

Anyways, I recommend everyone read Clown Prince’s article and educate themselves about Islam. Westerners are far too ignorant about it.

Crystal Mangum Strikes Again

From The Associated Press:

Crystal Mangum, 31, was arrested late Wednesday on charges including assaulting her boyfriend, Durham police said in a press release.

Durham County jail records indicate she also was charged with identity theft, communicating threats, damage to property, resisting an officer and misdemeanor child abuse. A judge ordered that she remain in jail on a $1 million bond. Mangum had no attorney listed Thursday.

Authorities released the audio of a 911 call in which a girl who said she was Mangum’s 9-year-old daughter called for help.

Police said they found Mangum and Milton Walker fighting when they arrived at the home just before midnight. Mangum then went into a bathroom and set some clothes on fire in a bathtub, police said.

For most readers who have busy lives but still try to follow the news of the day, the name Crystal Mangum probably doesn’t ring a bell.

Why should it?

For those who didn’t know or need reminded, Mangum was only the lying skank who falsely accused several members of the Duke Lacrosse team of raping her in 2006. The general public did not know her name, at least in the beginning, due to the MSM’s ridiculous* ‘rape shield’ policy which kept the media to keep from revealing Mangum’s identity. By the time Mangum was exposed as a liar, the media’s ‘rich white male jocks rape poor, defenseless, black woman’ template no longer worked and the media lost interest in the story (though some gave at least some passing mention of her past before moving on to the next story). Curiously, Al Sharpton was also nowhere to be found.**

Though I knew the media was done with Crystal Mangum, somehow I knew that one day I would see her name in the paper again. She was never subject to the kind of scrutiny the Duke Lacrosse players received by the media (and certainly not the courts).

Now Mangum is the one in the hot seat with her credibility all shot to hell. The burden of proof will be on her accusers and the prosecution that she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. But as the Duke Lacrosse players know all to well, the court of public opinion requires quite a lot less proof.

As tempting as it may be to smear Mangum by posting every rumor, conjecture, and tabloid story, I for one will do my best to separate the garbage from the truth (admittedly, not an easy task). While the truth may set most individuals free, I tend to believe that in this case at least, Mangum will finally receive the poetic justice she richly deserves.

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Obama, Gates, Crowley, and the Troubling Controversy that Seemingly Won’t Go Away

Up to now I have purposely avoided this whole disorderly conduct arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. for a number of reasons.

First reason being that compared to the other cases I’ve written about here and elsewhere, this is a very minor case of police misconduct. I have yet to read or hear any reports that Mr. Gates was roughed up even a little bit.

Second, Mr. Gates seems like a real ass. Gates seems to be someone who has a chip on his shoulder and apparently views the world in black and white (i.e. if the police as much as ask a question, s/he is a racist!). A woman saw 2 men trying to break into Gate’s home; unbeknownst to the woman, one of the men was the resident of the home. The woman even said as much on the 911 call:

“I don’t know what’s happening. … I don’t know if they live there and they just had a hard time with their key, but I did notice they had to use their shoulders to try to barge in…”

Now some people are calling her a racist for making the call to the police to begin with!

Third, like President Obama, I “don’t have all the facts” but unlike the president, I’m not going to say definitively that the police “acted stupidly.” There are no videos that documented the encounter and I wasn’t there so I cannot make a judgment as to who acted stupidly or to what degree. My best guess, based on what I have read about the case, is that both Mr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley acted inappropriately and overreacted.

So why have I decided to weigh in now you ask? I think the reason has to do mostly with the fact that this story won’t go away and with so much commentary in the MSM, talk radio, and the blogosphere, I can’t help but offer my 2 cents because certain aspects of this saga trouble me.

I am troubled that this case has turned into a race issue. This was not a case where a white police officer pulled over a black man for DWB. The police responded to a 911 call of a possible break in. This is what the police are supposed to do!

I am troubled that the president would make a public statement without knowing more about the facts of the case. For whatever reason, President Obama thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to opine about the historically troubled relationship between racial minorities and the police. Whether or not the president has a legitimate case to make, this case is not what I would consider a good example of the police racial profiling. What he should have said was something like: “Mr. Gates is a friend of mine but I don’t know all the facts; it would be inappropriate for me to comment about this case at this time.”

I am troubled that (apparently) the police did not leave Mr. Gates home once he identified himself as the home’s rightful resident, thus proving no crime had been committed.

I am troubled with how the police can apparently arrest someone for disorderly conduct for just about any reason they wish. While I do believe that Mr. Gates acted like an ass…since when is that a crime? Sure, he yelled some nasty things at the police when he should have been thanking them for investigating what appeared to be an unlawful break in, but how is making his displeasure known to the police disorderly conduct? I believe Doug is right: arresting Gates in this case was an unconstitutional voilation of his civil rights.

I am troubled by the way certain commentators such as Glenn Beck have gone off the deep end on Obama’s handling of this case, even going as far as calling the president a racist. I didn’t like it when people called Bush a racist and I don’t like it when people call Obama a racist*. That is a hell of a nasty charge to make of anyone (and if one does make that charge, they should have some damn good proof). Like I said before, Obama mishandled this situation but to say he is racist for commenting on race relations with the police (however inappropriate in using this case as an example) is a bridge too far.

I am troubled that other commentators say that because Obama said that the police “acted stupidly” that this is a slap in the face to police officers everywhere…as if he called all police officers stupid. What complete nonsense. I think its worth pointing out that Obama called the actions of the police stupid; he did not call the police stupid. This is a very important distinction. Even the most intelligent, honest, and morally upstanding individual acts stupidly at times. Not even college professors, police officers, or world leaders are immune from this.

Yes, this is indeed a teaching moment. Its just too bad that too many people seem to be learning the wrong lessons.

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Why Do We Need Expensive College Degrees to Get A Simple Job?

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Until 1960 or so, the percentage of people getting college degrees was relatively low. There was plenty of work for people who had ‘merely’ graduated from high school, and a high school graduate could support a family.

Then came the Vietnam War, where the United States government would happily enslave high-school graduates, but not students in college. The number of students entering college zoomed upward, and the number of colleges proliferated.

But the war ended in the early 1970’s, and the U.S. government stopped enslaving young men, although it does reserve the capability to start doing so at any time.

Yet, despite this pressure, the number of people entering college continued to increase. Why? Quite simply because it started to become difficult for a high school graduate to find a job. An increasing number of companies started demanding a college degree for jobs that clearly don’t require anything more than the education that could be acquired at a half-way decent high school.

Why would employers do this? What could prompt such a strange change? As usual, dig down into the matter, and the answer becomes clear.  In a paper posted at the John William Pope Canter for Higher Education, Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder argue that the reduced employment opportunities for high-school graduates and the resulting rise of the higher education bubble is an unintended consequence of the 1964 Civil Right Act, namely this part of Section VII:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

At the time this law was passed employers routinely classified prospective employees via pre-employment testing.  This testing was used to determine things like knowledge, technical aptitude, personality compatibility and, yes, the race of applicants.  At the time the law was being debated, its opponents raised the objection that this law could outlaw non-racist testing alongside racist testing.  To which the proponents of the bill replied:

There is no requirement in Title VII that employers abandon bona fide qualification tests where, because of differences in background and educations, members of some groups are able to perform better on these tests than members of other groups.  An employer may set his qualification as high as he likes, he may test to determine which applicants have these qualifications, and he may hire, assign, and promote on the basis of test performance.

Of course, like Madison’s claims that the Federal Government would obviously be limited to the powers described in Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, these legislators claims did not survive actual contact with the courts.  In the case Griggs v. Duke Power, the U.S. Supreme Court described what criteria can be used for pre-employment testing:

  • A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race – demonstrating a “disparate” performance – was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.
  • Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.

Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned.  The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination.  Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster.  Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job,  now could get them sued.

Companies began casting about for a way to screen out the-incompetent or unfit in a way that would not result in them being sued.  The simplest solution is to demand a college degree.  Any racial discrimination demonstrated in the pool of degreed people would be the colleges’ liability, and the business could get on with the business of hiring new employees without being worried about lawsuits.

It has taken thirty years for this unfortunate unintended consequence to play out;

  • People entering the workforce have been kept idle for four years unnecessarily.
  • People entering the workforce are saddled with debts that are difficult to pay off.
  • Colleges have gotten away with lowering educational standards because their graduates are in such high demand.

When summed across the millions of people who have entered the workforce in the last two decades, the economic costs imposed by this well-intended but horrendously misguided effort are staggering.  They include

  • Almost 100 million man-years’ lost productivity.
  • An additional 10 million man-years spent paying off college loans
  • Increased pressure on children to engage in organized activities designed to win the child a scholarship at the expense of their personal development.

Had the proponents of the Civil Rights Act limited their aim at racial discrimination by the government, they would have been crafting a very socially beneficial law.  But by seeking to use the law to force people not to racially discriminate, they wreaked massive damage on the economy.  Ironically, this damage disproportionately affects minorities who are far more likely to be at the mercy of awful government schools than other ethnic/racial groups.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Trying to understand the 4th of July from an African-American perspective

“It’s Independence Day, dammit, not the ‘Fourth of July,'” properly noted a close friend on Twitter.

This was countered by what I consider another valid point. “That depends on who you’re asking,” responded African-American Jefferson County (AL) Commission candidate Iva Williams. “Plymouth Rock landed on me!”

In my opinion, there is a lot of truth to both sides of this issue.  As the exchange started with the comment made by Georgia libertarian activist Jason Pye, I should first note that I’ve never observed a whiff of racism in Pye’s words or actions. Pye, who is white, has been targeted and threatened by some racist groups in Georgia for his belief that all people should be treated equally under the law.  Additionally, I’ve never observed race-baiting on the part of Williams and my observations indicate that he truly judges people by “the content of their character.”

Pye has good reason to want to celebrate “Independence Day.”  It’s a remembrance of the day that Americans formed a new political identity by throwing off the yokes of European tyranny and oppression.  If any one day could be identified as a turning point for freedom in western civilization, this is arguably the date which should be marked on our calendars.

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more,” wrote John Adams to his wife Abigail.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” reads a portion of the immortal document we observe on July 4th.  However, common practice at the time didn’t provide the same rights to one sector of America: African slaves.

It is estimated that half a million people, or one fifth of the total American population, in 1776 was enslaved.

While I certainly take a great deal of pride in the fact that a lot of people risked their lives, liberty and property to secure a nation free of Europe’s chains, I’ll never forget that we placed even crueler chains upon a significant segment of our own population. As those of us of western European ancestry don’t harbor positive feelings about the way we were treated by Great Britain, Willams has no reason to harbor positive feelings about the way African-Americans were treated at the time of our nation’s birth.

In his book John Adams, David McCullough notes an advertisement in the Phildelphia Journal:

TO BE SOLD: A large quantity of pine boards that are well seasoned. Likewise, a Negro wench; she is to be disposed of for no fault, but that she is present with child, she is about 20 years old … and is fit for either town or country business.

On the flip side of the coin, McCullough writes in 1776 this commentary by General John Thomas about “Negro” soldiers: “…for fatique and in action; many of them have proved themselves brave.”

One example of such bravery was recounted by John Greenwood:

…a Negro man, wounded in the back of his neck, passed me and, his collar being open and he not having anything on except his shirt and trousers, I saw the wound quite plainly and the blood running down his back. I asked him if it hurt him much, as he did not seem to mind it.  He said no, that he was only to get a plaster put on it and meant to return. You cannot conceive what encouragement this immediately gave me. I began to feel brave and like a soldier from that moment, and fear never troubled me afterward during the whole war.

One of the most dramatic moments of my life was being stationed in Germany when the wall fell.  The only traffic jam in which I’ve enjoyed being caught was the sudden exodus of people fleeing from Soviet Bloc countries. My three closest friends were all in the same unit and of the same rank: one white, one black and one hispanic. We delighted in watching the faces of those escaping the tyranny of the east. We shared a common pride for our contributions, and there was no reason for any of us to harbor any feeling of shame.

Even Thomas Jefferson, who I admire for a variety of reasons, certainly must have shared a feeling of shame with many of his countrymen at the time of our nation’s birth. In a draft version of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote that the British crown “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere.”

This section was dropped at the insistence of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia.

While the Constitution was being drafted, debate over the rights of African-Americans continued.  At the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, a compromise was reached and this wording (emphasis added) was finally settled upon: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

If my country was to allow those of my race to be enslaved, I’d not be likely to celebrate this sort of “independence.”

If my country was to only count me as three-fifths of a person, I’d not be celebrating this, either.

As a white person of mostly European ancestry, I understand the pride that most Americans feel on Independence Day. As I’m not black, I’ll probably never be able to truly understand the feelings of African-Americans on the topic. Were I black, I’d likely feel a sense of pride that many of my ancestors laid down their lives to promote a system of government which eventually led to the freest of societies in the history of the world.  I’d probably also wish to ensure that people never forget the absolute horrors of slavery. As many of my white friends want us to learn from the positives of the founding of our country, my black friends want to ensure that we truly understand our history so we never repeat the same mistakes.

This country has come a long way regarding racial issues since 1776. For the most part, the law requires that people of all races are to be treated equally, although in practice this isn’t always the case. At times, the legislative pendulum seems to swing too far in the other direction. To be quite clear, I’ll fight any legislation which limits the rights of members of any race.

Additionally, we’ve still got some cultural ground to cross.  If my skin tone was darker, there are still plenty of counties in the deep south where I’d not “let the sun set on my black ass.” As a white person, I don’t spend much time in those places, either. It’s not necessarily better up north, where racism is often more covert: “She’s not like us” is still whispered at many blue-blood cocktail parties.

“America experiences a new birth of freedom in her sons and daughters; she incarnates the spirit of her martyred chief,” noted Martin Luther King, Jr. in “The Negro and the Constitution.”

This Saturday, I’ll certainly understand why my Republican and Democratic friends will be flying the red, white and blue. I’ve an even deeper appreciation for my libertarian friends, who will mostly be displaying the Gadsden Flag. If I was black, I might be tempted to display three-fifths (respectfully folded and secured with pins, not cut with scissors) of an American flag.

“And I with my brother of blackest hue possessing at last my rightful heritage and holding my head erect, may stand beside the Saxon, a Negro, and yet a man!” concluded King while Jefferson wrote that “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

My Army experience in Germany taught me that people of all colors can form very close bonds when we don’t have racial barriers between us. Perhaps people of all races can spend a few minutes trying to wear shoes of a different color this July 4th. Perhaps we can start a revolution Jefferson might have welcomed so King’s Saxons and Negros are no longer divided, but are merely men.

The blood all races have shed for this country is of the same color: red. It’s time that we all learn to sit at the same table to discuss our common heritage of fighting for freedom. I can’t think of any better day to open the dialogue than on July 4th.

UPDATE: Via Dakarai I. Aarons, I’d recommend that everyone read ” What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass.

Originally posted at Birmingham Libertarian Examiner.