“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
For over 200 years, this phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence has been the benchmark for determining whether we are living up to the standards of the founding fathers. We strive to uphold that benchmark, even though some of the founders were slave holders and shared the centuries-old view that women are inferior to men.
We suggest that the history of adherence to the principle of equality is the history of our country. Our founding principles are among the highest in the world. But our ability to achieve those principles is a checkered record of success and failure. Success with the abolition of slavery, failure to curb Jim Crow laws.
Success at gradual racial integration of the military, failure at the school and housing segregation that persisted throughout the country. Success in passing civil rights and voting rights laws, failure to enforce those laws consistently. Success in the election of the nation’s first black president, failure in the racist dog whistling that has prevailed in recent elections.
There is no question that many African Americans, immigrants of Hispanic origin, Asians and women feel they are treated as inferiors and have sustained actions which infer or convey they hold inferior status. In that context, we are confronted with the front page news that the current governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, is pictured in his medical school yearbook as either blackface or wearing KKK garb.
Regardless of his protestations and the debate surrounding the photograph, there is no doubt it looks racist. Major African-American organizations are calling for Governor Northam to resign. Those wanting him retained say the photograph was a youthful prank, and it was taken 30 years ago.
Put simply, racism and democracy will never be reconciled. Racism is the naked fist of inequality, of the superiority of one race over others, of the right not just to deny equal rights, but to mock, denigrate and even slander those deemed inferior. If we truly want to save democracy, then we need to oppose racist people and denounce racist actions.
Governor Ralph Northam should resign. Supreme Court judges Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh should not have been confirmed. President Trump’s slanderous ‘Pocahontas’ directed at Senator Elizabeth Warren and mockery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for describing the trauma of attempted rape should be labeled as holding women in contempt.
Those who condemn anti-racist and anti-misogynist action as political correctness should be made to understand that there is such a standard as moral correctness, and that standard is buttressed by the bedrock principles upon which our democracy stands.
Racism and misogyny are enemies of democracy. They have no defense. Ever.