Dred Scott and the 14th Amendment: An Open Letter to African American Descendants of the Enslavement

November 1, 2018

 

 

 

Dear African American Descendants of the Enslavement:

 

 

I am writing this letter to ask you to consider the impossible:

 

Back in 2015, most Americans thought Donald J. Trump could never win the election in 2016, but the impossible happened and he did.

 

Since then, there have been many seemingly impossible events occurring with reckless frequency that many of them have become normalized in the minds of many.  Most of us thought that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 could never be diminished or key provisions gutted; an impossibility which became possible in 2013 in a 5 to 4 vote which effectively pierced its heart and freed nine mostly Southern states to change laws without having to gain Federal approval.  What has happened since has been a flurry of state laws which act as a suppressant, denying and disenfranchising the votes of millions of African American people.

 

 

Don’t be deceived. Trump gets information from his advisors daily. He takes what he wants to spin to the media and then they weave an entire narrative for the consumption of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, White and non-white people. The political machine behind the president knows who they have in that position. They bank on the ignorance, short memories, division and discord of the masses to pursue their goals. They know that many of us don’t pay attention to politics in general and are only focused on aspects of emotional debates and disagreements among the parties. Many of us simply cannot fathom the real ramifications of a repeal of the 14th Amendment and what that could possibly mean for African American descendants of the Enslavement.

 

This week there has been a great deal of talk about Trump and many of the Republicans' mutual desire to repeal the 14th Amendment. They are using the immigration "problem" as a reason to "end birthright citizenship." They are pointing to non-documented people having children and being guaranteed all of the rights of citizenship, “milking the system” and “costing the country billions of dollars.”

 

Some of the so-called “establishment” Republicans are attempting to walk back Trump’s rhetoric, explaining that an Amendment can’t be changed by the stroke of a pen on an Executive Order. That fact makes many people feel secure because they think the Constitution is unbreakable, solid and unchangeable.  

 

Recall in two of my previous posts, The Article V Constitutional Convention and Why You Should be Concerned and Democracy in Peril: No Amendment Might be Spared on the impending Article V Constitutional Convention and the far right movement known as the “Convention of States,” sponsored by the Kochs, the Mercers and ALEC, among other wealthy donors, I discuss the fact that the Constitution is in fact, NOT SECURE, and that if it is opened, one of the Amendments that could be in jeopardy would be the 14th.  

 

For people who are unaware of how the history of these United States impacts us all, and specifically African American descendants of the Enslavement, the prospect of the repeal seems very unlikely. Since the reality of even one of the implications of the repeal is so impossible to imagine for most Black Americans, and because most Americans of all colors and nationalities are not generally well versed in the Amendment or the Supreme Court case that is directly associated with it, it appears preposterous that a repeal would have anything to do with Black people.  In fact, the politicians and the media are only talking about and reporting on one small aspect of the Amendment: the birthright citizenship provision.  This provision is extremely important when taken in context with the entire Amendment, facts of which the politicians and the media are conveniently leaving out.

In posts and comments on social media on this subject, many people are scoffing, and hysterically laughing emoji faces abound. Many are even laughing off the mere thought of any affect on African American descendants of the Enslavement as a result of what Trump is raving about birthright citizenship and “illegal immigration.”

 

"So, he will deport us?" “Where the hell would we go?” “That’s crazy.” "This only deals with immigrants who have children." “Any ruling would only have an affect on illegal immigrants coming over here to have children.”

 

These are but a few of the comments that have come out of the discussions on this latest “impossibility” of Donald J. Trump.

 

What I am asking you to do, dear Black American descendants of the Enslavement is to put on our lenses and take a good, unblemished look at some unbleached history.

 

The Supreme Court and the Dred Scott Decision. On the surface, it can be said that the Dred Scott Decision only affected the individual, the slave, Dred Scott, in the case. However, Supreme Court decisions always end as a farther-reaching interpretation of the Constitution and is the way the Law and the Supreme Court operates. Each and every case that comes before the Supreme Court has the potential to become precedent. Furthermore, each case is set into the annals of case law to be debated, overturned or upheld and used to justify or deny other cases brought before the Court.

 

Therefore, the Dred Scott ruling stated as one of its conclusions in their decision,

 

"African Americans could never become U.S. citizens."

 

Let me repeat,

 

"African Americans could NEVER become U.S. citizens."

 

The 14th Amendment. In 1868, during the Reconstruction, the 14th Amendment was ratified, granting citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States – including former slaves – and guaranteed all citizens equal protection of the laws.”

 

 

This was one of three amendments passed during the Reconstruction period, designed to eliminate slavery and to afford civil and legal rights for former slaves and their descendants. This Amendment “would become the basis for many landmark Supreme Court decisions over the years.”

 

The decision effectively rejected Chief Justice Roger Taney’s decision in Dred Scott which stated even if born free, a Black man could never claim any rights of citizenship under the Constitution.

 

Let me repeat that, as well:

 

Even if born free, a Black man could never claim any rights of citizenship under the Constitution.

 

And this is why the 14th Amendment is so important to you, Black American descendants of the Enslavement.  This is why you need to be concerned with the prospect of its repeal.

 

Imagine the impossible for just one moment:

 

The Convention of States succeeds in opening up a Constitutional Convention and when that happens, we already know “all bets are off." Of the many possible Amendments which could be “added or removed,” the 14th Amendment is one of them slated to go.  The House and Senate ratifies the repeal. A case is brought to the Supreme Court.  It is none other than Dred Scott, but because the 14th Amendment no longer exists, the Court overturns the Dred Scott decision.

 

I am imploring you. Do not be naïve enough to believe that the 14th Amendment, which was put into the Constitution to guarantee Dred Scott could never be upheld is only about "immigrants."  Do not be naïve enough to believe that the impossible can’t happen. Some really impossible things have happened already.

 

 

 

 

Sources (Links):  

 

Dred Scott Decision. 

History.com. 14th Amendment. 

Voting Rights Act Article. 

Voting Rights Act Supreme Court Decision. 

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