Archive for October, 2012

This was originally a part of the Multiregionalism and Race essay.  Because there was a long discussion in the comments section, I’ve decided to keep the relevant part of the essay here under the above title:

6.  Who was Carleton Putnam?

In the 1950s, many States in the United States still required racial segregation in schools and in other facilities, such as restaurants.  In this way, white society tried to exclude blacks from social interaction with whites.  I’m a white guy―at least from what I have been able to discern by way of visual inspection―but I’m sure if I had been around at that time, I would have been excluded just on general principle.

There are pictures from that era and even later times of white versus colored water fountains, or white versus colored bathrooms, or white versus colored basketball players―though I think I may be on good grounds in questioning whether there ever were white basketball players.  Such pictures have probably been faked and are part of a conspiracy to put whites into basketball games, for which they have no aptitude, and for which they have no native traditions in their own homelands that encourage basketball among native white children.

It is my opinion that most of the white vs. colored pictures sort of look like morality tales about how benighted things were in the past compared with our supposedly more enlightened age.  I can’t help but think there is a certain amount of self-righteousness at work in those who like to point out the sins of our forefathers, as if we have always been pure from sin and historically enlightened.  Modern “progressive” historians in their discussion of past racism often do so with a level of social self-righteousness that reminds one of the Pharisee who prayed thus, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are. . . .” (Luke 18:11).

In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States rendered the Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended any and all school segregation in the United States based on race.  Prior to that time, the Court had upheld laws requiring separate but equal facilities: schools, universities, law schools, etc.  For instance, under the separate but equal principle if a State was going to have a white only law school, it would have to provide a law school of equal caliber for blacks.  If a State chose not to set up a segregated institution, and blacks were allowed to attend a white institution, there could be no discrimination against blacks who attended such a school.

Now, the Supreme Court’s separate-but-equal decision was more or less in keeping with the 14th Amendment.  Many people might not want to admit that fact, but then again many people do not want to admit that they enjoy a Charlie Sheen meltdown, or that they like to make genitalia jokes about Congressman Anthony Weiner mainly because of his last name, or that a Richard Simmons’ exercise video causes them to smile in a sickly way.  The fact is, the 14th Amendment only protected a black man’s fundamental rights (life, liberty, and property) not other political rights.  It was very limited in its focus, which is why another amendment was required to recognize the black man’s right to vote.

Many blacks were not satisfied because the 14th Amendment still allowed segregation and discrimination, and blacks who were represented by the NAACP wanted the Court to rule against all school segregation.  The Court obliged the NAACP in the Brown decision, which from our perspective was a wonderful decision in terms of its concordance with the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson had nicely encapsulated the American principle―that all men are created equal, but that was only in theory.  It took a dreadfully long time for the American principle to be realized in fact.

Nevertheless, the Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land.  Despite the Court’s high-mindedness and good intentions, its decision was based upon specious reasoning about the 14th Amendment, bogus psychological studies, and worst of all, a lack of any Constitutional authority.  Under the Constitution, Supreme Court judges cannot set domestic policy for States, for such would be a violation of the 10th Amendment.  I’m not saying Judges don’t do it (to their shame) but they still don’t have the right to do it whatever they might say or do otherwise.  I can certainly rule anyway I like, but that’s because Judges are respectable folk in the community, and I do not have a reputation of that kind to worry about.

Unfortunately, the Judges decided to settle the controversial issue in much the same way Justice Taney had settled the slavery issue in Dred Scott, getting the result that was wanted no matter if it was based on flimsy grounds, and a rewriting of American history.  Still, the Brown decision is with us and even if the Court were to overturn the decision in the future, there is simply no way that schools or society would ever go back to segregation.

I would have preferred that race relations could have improved voluntarily and peacefully over the years, but the Judges blocked off the peaceful route and imposed their will on a society that was not ready for it.  The results were catastrophic.  The Court was allowed to get away with an un-Constitutional usurpation of power, and as a result race relations went downhill, black educational quality and achievement in schools reached bottom, and white flight from urban areas guaranteed that inner-city schools would be all black, a return to segregation with lower standards than before.

The Brown decision did not just worry those who saw raw “judicial activism” in the Court’s behavior.  It also lit a fire under Carleton Putnam, a Yankee businessman, who felt the need to defend the South against what he saw as Northern aggression.  In Putnam we have the segregationist mindset in full blossom, and it was mixed with a poisonous racialism that helped to discredit legitimate opposition to the concept of rule by judicial decree.

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