Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"States' Rights"?

Today is Tuesday, 21 December 2010.

"mary christmas" yesterday commented: "So you are saying that because "states rights" was used as an excuse/cover to dominate the Black man and woman (back over 150 years ago) that current advocation of "state rights" will lead to similar attrocity?"

Between 1776 and 1789, the 13 former British colonies were effectively 13 independent nations, associated by the Articles of Confederation for certain limited purposes, but retaining individual sovereignty. When the Union was formed as the Constitution came into force, the national sovereignty of the several states was extinguished. The several states retained certain rights and powers, as did “the people”, but sovereignty as a nation resided only in the USA, and not in the individual states.

In the 1820s, abolition of slavery began gaining favour in public opinion. There were two main arguments. One was that ALL humans were created equal, and not just white males of a certain minimum net worth (as envisioned in the original understanding of the Constitution), and that slavery was therefore immoral. The other main argument was that slavery, as a form of social-political-economic organization, was outmoded, and retarded further development of the American nation. (Many persons, of course, advanced both these arguments.)

In response, Southern slave advocates invented the notion of “states’ rights”, arguing that the sovereignty of the several states hadn’t been extinguished in 1789, and that individual states enjoyed the right and power to pick and choose which elements of the Constitution had force within their boundaries, and which they chose to “nullify” within their boundaries. And, of course, those elements which they claimed the right to nullify were those which threatened slavery.

It was for this false notion that the traitors of the Confederacy went to war. The question was, of course, settled in 1865. Then, in 1877, the Republican Party sold out Blacks, agreeing to end Reconstruction in return for stealing the Presidential election of 1876. This resulted in the creation of segregation, which I have termed “The Second Slavery”. The ideological fig leaf for segregation was states’ rights.

After the passage of Federal civil rights legislation in 1964-1965, the legal framework of segregation began to be dismantled, and replaced by the informal vehicle of The Third Slavery, discrimination, which persists to this day. White racists then re-tooled and re-styled states’ rights ideology under the banner of “self-government”, which again meant essentially the nonexistent “right” of state and local authorities to nullify Constitutional attempts to combat discrimination and extend full rights to all. Bigots of every stripe soon adopted the ideology, using it to “justify” discrimination against females, lesbians, gay males, bi-sexuals, transgendered persons, immigrants, and anyone else they disliked.

I don’t argue that the present invocation of states’ rights will (necessarily) result in the re-imposition of slavery. However, it is historical fact that the ideology of states’ rights has never been meant to advance the causes of equity, freedom, and justice, but has always been a pretext for oppression at sub-Federal levels.


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