Note: The inspiration for this article originated in Chapter 1 of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s “Lies The Government Told You,” which I would be remiss not to mention. However, the Judge mostly focuses on the history of discrimination against African-Americans and former slaves, and the resulting affirmative action laws that exist today. I felt that a broader approach was warranted due to the profound implications that state-supported collectivist preference (or outright servitude) has for us all.
From the founding of this nation’s government, we have lived in a society where “all men are created equal,” but are not treated that way. In fact, at some point in America’s short history, you can probably find an example where your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion has received the short end of the state’s disregard for one of the basic rights that they claim to protect. Such discrimination has also occurred in nearly every administration, across party lines, in good economic times and bad, in times of war and of peace. A common thread can be seen in each case: the discrimination has been driven by political motives and the expansion of state power.
For starters, despite the language in the Declaration of Independence, slaves of African descent were not considered equals when it came time to ratify the Constitution. Although some of the Founders were opposed to slavery (such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin), the institution was nonetheless implemented and was kept in tact – largely for economic reasons – until after the Civil War. Even when Abraham Lincoln took office, the only major push to end slavery – the Emancipation Proclamation – was made for political reasons by Lincoln, who wished to create a slave uprising in the Confederate states.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, racial segregation continued to oppress African-Americans, mostly for the political benefit of those in power (affluent white males). Starting in the 1910s and 20s, the federal government embarked on a national housing segregation program which denied housing loans to those living in “areas in decline” (majority black neighborhoods), since it was believed that the presence of blacks in a white neighborhood would bring down property values. Historically black neighborhoods were destroyed to make way for elevated highways which connected white neighborhoods. Politicians, eager to gain the votes of those white voters in the majority opinion, happily violated the rights of the minority race, both to gain re-election and to expand government power in housing and transportation.
As previously stated, however, government discrimination is not confined only to African-Americans. The well-documented case of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II provides a striking example of the government’s willingness to disregard the rights of its citizens. (Is anyone shocked that neoconservatives such as Michelle Malkin have continued to support such practices?) The forced removal of Native Americans in the 1830s to make room for (voting) white citizens is yet another example. The federal government’s use of the Marshall Islands to test nuclear weapons, which had long-term effects on the residents there, made disposable use of the citizens of a U.S. Territory. In the original colonization of Hawaii, the native Asians and Pacific Islanders were not permitted to vote within several years of American troops landing on the shores.
Nor is legal discrimination an issue that is contained within the realm of racism. In an effort to promote national unity and a sense of loyal patriotism, the Supreme Court held that Jehovah’s Witnesses (or any others who might dissent) were required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. In an 8-1 opinion, Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote a majority opinion which evoked thought control and national security as a basis for upholding the school district’s decision. Frankfurter wrote that the flag could be a part of legislative initiatives designed “to promote in the minds of children who attend the common schools an attachment to the institutions of their country,” and that “national unity is the basis of national security.” These same rhetorical arguments have since been used to condemn anti-war activists as unpatriotic.
In the three years that ensued, Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted zealously across the country, with Kingdom Halls being burned and Witnesses being jailed, brutally beaten, and run out of town. The Court reversed their opinion in 1943, but the damage had been done, and the implications for religious freedom and right to disobey government propaganda was firmly established.
Although many in America believe that the civil rights era of the 1960s and 70s has largely ended discrimination, the fact is that the government has been one of the most ardent supporters of favor-granting on the basis of characteristics which are out of the individual’s control. Lyndon B. Johnson rightly admitted that the concept of affirmative action is inherently a socialist point: “We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.” The government has continued to use “civil rights” as a pseudonym for “equality of result” in nearly every major federal program it has implemented in the past 50 years.
In the housing market, the Community Reinvestment Act promoted lending to minorities, even when the individuals in question were not qualified to take out loans. One result – a housing bubble and financial crisis – was met, predictably, with greater government control over the financial and housing markets, and resulted in the loss of property and employment for many Americans of all backgrounds.
On the other side of the coin, the “War on Drugs” continues to disproportionately affect minority groups: although about 15% of drug users are African-American, nearly three-quarters of those convicted on drug-related charges are black. In combination with the FDA, the drug industry in America is far from a free market: large pharmaceutical companies continue to benefit from the lack of competition in the industry, and continue to lobby Congress for more of the same at the expense of minorities.
The same government that espouses discriminatory policy in the name of “civil rights” continues to violate natural rights, and continues to keep the discussion of race, religion, and other collectives in the contemporary political discourse. As long as the government takes these qualities into account, so too will its citizens. Of course, this government has tremendous incentives to maintain the status quo as it pertains to discrimination: it flies in the face of, and destroys, the protections that keep us free as individuals.
The bottom line is clear: The state will commit acts of violence and oppression upon any individual or group, so long as it supports their cause, and provided those in power believe there are no repercussions. So much for “all men are created equal”; under our government, the only equality that exists is an equal probability to be robbed, denied opportunity, or enslaved.