Call me a Progressive, but I think racism is wrong.

Here is a blurb from an article that my professor assigned for this week. The author has just made a case that our “ruling class” comprised of progressives is ruining America by proposing or supporting amendments to the Constitution. It is challenging the “Country class” to rise up and protest.

“the Country Party could lead public discussions around the country on why even the noblest purposes (maybe even Title II of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964?) cannot be allowed to trump the Constitution.”

Now, I have a problem with this. For the record, Title II of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was what “prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment.”

Okay, so plain and simple, this author is saying that upholding the constitution (apparently, the concept of a constitution that can be modified is called a “living” constitution) for what it was originally (so, “dead” I guess?) is more important than adapting it to fit what history has taught us to be true (like, discrimination and society that reflects normalized racism being wrong, for example).

I understand that many people don’t want to see the things that they hold dear be taken from them. But, how can people justify the idea that oppressing others is okay just because a document that was written at the foundation of our nation didn’t say that it was wrong? Also, the foundation of our nation came at the expense of many, many (some scholars say in the millions) lives of indigenous people that were already on this continent. I wouldn’t exactly say that our forefathers had all their values straight or perfected, based on that. Humans have always been fallible; I believe that all that we produce will always be capable of improvement. Call me a progressive. I am. I do believe that.

This article introduced me to a new branch of ultra-conservatism that I had not yet met. Now, I grew up in a conservative Christian community, and then, as an undergraduate, I attended a liberal arts university for social and cultural anthropology. It’s not unusual for me to disagree with some of the perspectives being espoused from the pulpit or podium.

BUT-

Wow.

I am really surprised that I am being introduced to the most conservative views yet by the (interim) chair of my department at the same liberal arts university that I attended for undergraduate school. And yes, he maintains these views. And no, he does not consider them views. He just teaches this stuff as the one and only way that it is.

And what really annoys me is that most of my fellow students just swallow it without question. I don’t know if they don’t really read the stuff, if they agree, or if they just don’t care. But, it drives me a little crazy. I feel like shaking them all and asking them if they are even alive, sometimes. There is one other girl who has ever challenged him on anything, and it went about as well for her as it did for me (he says he’s right, cites a few studies, and then declares himself the winner of the argument).

For all his crazy views, he does keep me coming back to class, well-informed, and ready to disagree. At least he cares. That, I get. Maybe my classmates don’t offend me with their views, but at least he has views. I respect that, at least.

Now, I will just say this. This branch of ultra-conservative thinking often tries to appeal to Christians by using fear tactics. This author talks about the government trying to steal our rights to worship our God, and yes, I know that many of us have felt chastised or belittled at one point or another for our faith. But consider this: “there is no fear in perfect love, but perfect fear casts out love.”

I do not think that we should hinge our thinking on fear–especially at the expense of oppressing others or believing that it’s okay to oppress others.

Furthermore, an “us versus them” mentality based on fear is a hallmark of torturers as is the devaluation and discrimination of another group of people. Ideologies that consume people and make them believe that the “other” is the enemy causes people to lose sight of humanity (Staub, 1990).

Anyway, there is a lot more that I could write, but frankly, I’ve heard that not many people read blogs on holiday weekends.

*The article to which I am referring is accessible here.

*Staub, E. 1990. The psychology and culture of torture and torturers. Chapter 4. In Psychology and Torture. Hemisphere Publishing Co. 49-76.

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12 Responses to Call me a Progressive, but I think racism is wrong.

  1. Collin says:

    I know a lot of people who cling to the idea of the original constitution for dear life. This is strange to me.

    The constitution was written when our nation was just being birthed. It was in its infancy.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I love infants. I have one that I truly love. However, infants SHOULD grow and change over time. If Senya is still throwing up after every meal and pooping her pants when she is my age, that is going to be a problem.

    The original constitution is great… full of potential and promise. But nobody gets everything exactly right on the first try. You need to grow and adapt.

  2. jessica says:

    I think it’s really dangerous to espouse views as facts.
    especially when those “facts” are hurtful to other people.

    I also think that fear begets more fear and where does it end, then? everyone clutching weapons and wielding them against our friends, even, when they were simply tapping us on the shoulder to say hello and we took it to be something sinister.

    I think I’ll never understand what it is like to really walk a whole day in someone else’s shoes; but the least I can do is try to be kind and treat them the way that I’d like to be treated, even if we do look down and see that we are all wearing different shoes.

    And look what Thomas Jefferson, one of the major players when it came to writing the Constitution, said: “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”

    Looks like you’re not alone in being a progressive, Linds. 🙂

    • Lindsay says:

      Thanks for introducing Thomas Jefferson’s quote to me; I love that. And I agree with your opening comment about the danger of espousing views as facts. I love exchanging ideas and views, but I don’t like when people (in power of some kind, especially) act as though their opinions are absolute reality.

  3. mom says:

    i was talking to your very conservative dad about this subject , since he was a political science major, and he said that “most politcal theorists agree that, without a certain amount of elasticity within a government structure, fracture will be inevitable”…

    … i think the constitution must be amended with a look back at what the intent of the constitution was, a look at the present and how it is negatively and positively impacting people, and a look forward to what is the most noble and just direction …and we have justices who are not elected (and supposed to be unbiased…joke there) to make those decisions

    • Lindsay says:

      I’m glad to hear dad’s view on this (and it was so succinct and well-phrased, too!) Also–yes, mom, good point. I think the intent of the constitution is important to consider when deciding what is the most noble and just manifestation of that intent now.

  4. mers says:

    This is a great post Linds.

  5. jason says:

    Considering that the writers of the Constitution themselves were the ones who knew that it needed a mechanism to be able to be amended and changed as times themselves changed, I’d have to say that this viewpoint is total and utter hogwash.

    I mean, the first ten amendments were ratified by 1791, by much of the same legislative body of people who ratified the actual constitution in 1789. So clearly it’s meant to change over time, at least according to the framers. They set up the process to change it, and used it right away!

  6. Emily E says:

    Lots of good discussion here! I think Jesus was a Progressive.

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