We’re in deep trouble. Discussing past historical horrors is horrendous in itself. Avoidance and lies only cause more trouble.
Consider the plight of my favorite Constitutional Amendment, the Fourteenth: “No state…shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Ratified in 1868, the essence of the Fourteenth Amendment has been tossed to the wind, although it’s the framework for any semblance of American democracy.
Throwing out the evils of the past will not save democracy. Returning to the restrictions of voting rights will only inhibit progress into a clearly multicultural U.S. future. For those who deny this fact, “the objective is to win the war against progress and to freeze America in a yesteryear image of itself,” writes New York Times columnist Charles Blow.
Yes, it took a century for Civil Rights legislation to finally pass in 1964. Despite the Fourteenth Amendment, the United States still required Congress to comply. For the first time, many Black citizens strode to the polls to vote — unafraid of recrimination — or worse.
The Fourteenth Amendment directed the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage in Obergefell V. Hodges (June 2015).
Truth has disappeared from our body politic like sugar water gulped by hummingbirds. Buzzing around so fast, without any evidence, lies are mistaken for truth. Social media sound bites whiz in and out of our brains.
Back in the 1990s, I told my Mt. Desert Island, Maine, high school students, “If you see me walking down the street thirty years from now what will you say?”
You would yell, Equal protection of the laws! The Fourteenth Amendment!
There is no semblance of democracy without it.
Consider the current plight of my favorite Amendment:
The NYT Magazine’s 1619 Project, which seeks to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative” created a right-wing backlash, instigated by former president Donald Trump’s “1776 Report” touting extreme patriotism, i.e. leaving out Blacks and minorities.
Weren’t we all immigrants who settled here, other than Native Americans? (“The End of History,” NYT, Jan. 15, 2023.)
There are bright spots.
At the end of 2022, a federal judge blocked Florida from enforcing the Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act (Stop W.O.K.E. Act) in the state’s colleges and universities.
The order came in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of seven instructors and one student in colleges across Florida to challenge the Act, which limits how “systematic” [a word critical race theory deniers particularly abhor] racism and sex discrimination can be discussed in schools or workplaces.
In Florida, the ACLU argued the law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it restricts instructors and teachers from learning certain viewpoints.
“Parents and caregivers are children’s first teachers and play a powerful role in determining what children learn about history and in shaping children’s perspectives and our shared future. Discussing the history of slavery in age-appropriate ways can help children understand how that history influences life today.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s new “Learning for Justice” guide, Talking to Children About the History of slavery in the United States: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers, compiles a list of recommendations for talking about slavery and race with children, offering age-appropriate information and resources to emphasize in conversations and in classrooms.”
Eliminating key parts of our history for bogus reasons — like learning historical truths will make children uncomfortable – is a misuse of the Fourteenth Amendment.
On February 9, the Washington Post’s Laura Meckler reported that the College Board removed the mention of Black Lives Matter and reparations for slavery’s harm to descendants in its African American History pilot program, at the same time stating in a letter to the Florida Department of Education the “the changes were not made in response o Florida’s complaint.”
Meanwhile, more than sixteen states are considering “Do Not Say Gay” laws.
To forge a true democracy, the Fourteenth Amendment must rule. “Democracy sprouts in public schools, where students grapple, together, with our messy history and learn to negotiate differences.” (“What Are Schools For?” NYT, September 4, 2022) No state or jurisdiction may deny to any person “equal protection of the laws.” PERIOD.
Couldn’t agree more, but it appears that perhaps you wrote something that seems contradictory and probably wasn’t intended. You write:
“The order came in a lawsuit against the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of seven instructors and one student in colleges across Florida to challenge the Act…” Didn’t you mean “…in a lawsuit by the American…” I didn’t think the lawsuit was against the ACLU. I thought it was brought by the ACLU against Florida.
Barry Fulmer Ft. Myers, Fla.
Yes, thank you Barry! I will update immediately.
Nice piece.Educational too (for us!)Thanks for sharing.S and V
Thanks Sydney! You know, once a teacher always a teacher!