Throughout its nearly 250-year history, America has dedicated a significant amount of time to establishing its status and worth as the world's most predominant nation. If you were to ask any American citizen, they would undoubtedly proclaim that America is the greatest country in the world and a model of democracy. Its military might is widely regarded as unparalleled, and other nations consider America to be a land of opportunity. America holds itself in high esteem and competes intermittently with other nations both in times of war and peace to demonstrate its competence in global affairs. The value America places on itself in terms of its superiority over other nations is its “sovereignty.” In addition, America lauds the sovereignty of its people through the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in relation to the rights of the people to direct themselves through governmental representation.
What is sovereignty? Its literal definition means supreme power or authority. It has other subtle and not-so-subtle ancillary meanings that help frame the literal definition around more benign nationalistic and patriotic connotations. Terms like sovereignty are typically applied in discussions of old, medieval European kingdoms, kings, and queens. However, the term has a root in the founding of America as well. In an article called, “Why Does Sovereignty Matter to America?” by Steven Groves for the Heritage Foundation, he declared in the first line of the first paragraph of his article, “The United States is a sovereign nation.” Discussing its importance to the establishment of the country’s independence from England, Groves wrote:
When America declared its independence in 1776, the Declaration described Americans as “one people” who had the right “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them. With these words, the United States declared its sovereignty.”
When critically assessing the word sovereignty, the status of a nation that considers itself sovereign becomes immediately obvious. It considers itself supreme power or authority. The notion of sovereignty may have made sense in the 18th century when England’s monarchy was sovereign over the colonies, and declaring the new country’s own sovereignty was extremely important in ultimately severing its ties. But did sovereignty actually extend to the people? The notion of national sovereignty was also responsible for the new nation’s move west. Manifest destiny, or the perception upon which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, commanded the new nation’s national sovereignty over the lands in the West, and drove the movement of the original people of the lands and the enslaved through the Trail of Tears. In this context, it is certain sovereignty was only afforded to the wealthy white people controlling the government.
Furthermore, during the 19th century, the term, “popular sovereignty,” also called “squatter sovereignty” was a controversial political doctrine created in the South that called for the territories deciding to enter the union to make their own decisions to enter as free or slave states. As noted by writer, Zach Garrison in an article entitled “Civil War on the Western Border” for the Kansas City Public Library, popular sovereignty was “first promoted in the 1840s in response to debates over western expansion,” and argued that democracy in a Federal government meant the residents, not the Federal government should be allowed to decide on slavery within their borders.
One of the reasons the term sovereignty as an identifier for the nation may have become linguistically obsolete is because of its semantic membership with the Confederacy and white supreme power or authority. According to Princeton University author, Sir Authur Watts, as a concept mainly considered for Constitutional Law, the practical use of sovereignty as an identifier today is political, having “lost none of its appeal, much of it at bottom nationalistic and emotional.” He further stated, “Such political use of notions of sovereignty is nowadays little more than a nostalgic attempt to invoke the memory of past freedoms, independence, and supremacy.”
Sir Arthur Watts’ last statement where he makes reference to sovereignty as an “…attempt to invoke the memory of past freedoms, independence, and supremacy” invokes deeper connotations than a nation free from England’s monarchy, or of law between, by, and among the people. It harkens back to the time when popular sovereignty was being promulgated in 1854 by the likes of Senator turned 16th president, Stephen Douglas, a staunch proponent of the contentious doctrine. Therefore, when evaluating the term sovereignty within the context of past freedoms, independence, supremacy, and the antebellum period, past freedoms meant the freedom of those to enslave, independence of the enslaver states, and the supremacy of the Confederacy.
The article by Steven Groves referred to earlier in this essay was written in 2010, the 21st century, not the 19th or 18th centuries. This is an important fact to consider as he asked the question, “Why Does Sovereignty Matter to America” and the role of politics in the application of the term, sovereignty. The author argues sovereignty on the international stage, hinting at globalist takeover as a potential end to U.S. sovereignty and the importance of not succumbing to transnational organizations. Nevertheless, there is a noteworthy tone resonating from the article that regards not only international sovereignty but domestic sovereignty as well. A nation by and for the people has not been kind to the original people of the land nor to the people brought over in chains, which poses the question of whether equality is conducive to a sovereign nation such as America and the people who are making the decisions on behalf of the people.
Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities, with synonyms such as fairness, impartiality, and justness, so it would appear to be opposed to the definition of sovereignty by virtue of the term, supreme because supreme is defined as being superior to all others. Supremacy, which uses the suffix acy, meaning quite frankly, the belief that some particular group or race is superior to all others means sovereignty, as supreme power or authority may be considered the same way as supremacy through the stem word, supreme. It is also clear that the term “equality” is antithetical to “supremacy” because of the obvious status each term connotes in society.
On its face, supremacism is the state of superiority over all others. The United States touts itself as having superiority over all of the other countries in the world in one aspect of human existence or another. It forms the basis of patriotism, exceptionalism, and a sense of national pride to consider one’s country the best and most superior. Moreover, the entire sociocultural and economic structure of the United States is one of competition to be superior in something, anything, from goods and services to value as human beings, which means there is always going to be a winner and a loser, someone lower, and someone higher, something or someone better or worse, and creating the myth of a “level playing field.” Yet, competition for superiority will always portray the outcome the same way, with success and failure, winners and losers.
The indoctrination of competition is so pervasive and the conditioning so thoroughly ingrained that it may be virtually impossible to envision a life of true equality for human beings since under the concept of competition to be best, or superior, one simply cannot be equal to another. People applaud winners and vilify losers. That is an integral part of the culture, fueled by Meritocracy. Meritocracy is commonly used to justify competition and measure achievement based on one's ability to complete tasks. However, when the concept of "whiteness" is introduced and used to assign privileges and rights based on perceived skin color, it becomes white sovereignty, measuring the value of human life based on skin color and creating competition for humanity itself.
The people who have been beneficiaries of national sovereignty must come to grips with their own terms, definitions, and derivatives of usage since the ideology of sovereignty becomes just as detrimental to the cause of equality, equity opportunity, and justice as white supremacy when the definition of each term literally and figuratively means the same thing. As long as America continues to parade its manifest destiny in white, embrace whiteness as superior, compete with each other’s humanity, and view its sovereignty as the supreme power or authority, any hope of equality, equity, opportunity, and justice will remain a delusion in the minds of most.