The myth of equality, acceptance in society

SUSAN K. SMITH | 5/29/2016, 4:42 a.m.
As a child growing up, I found solace in words found in the Declaration of Independence and in the Holy ...

(George Curry Media) – As a child growing up, I found solace in words found in the Declaration of Independence and in the Holy Bible. The Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal …” and the Holy Bible says that God loves everyone, and that Jesus showed the agape love that was of and from God. If a person had God, I reasoned, and if a person followed the words of this nation’s Declaration of Independence, then, surely, some of the injustice, particularly racial injustice that I saw around me, would surely become a thing of the past.

The myth of equality with and acceptance by “the majority population,” however, was just that –a myth. The beloved Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, we were taught, was no champion for the human rights of Black people. He wasn’t interested in the well-being of Black people. In a letter he wrote to Gen. Henry Halleck, one of the Union commanders, he wrote: “I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. My paramount struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could to it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps to save the Union …”

In the Lincoln-Douglas Debate on Aug. 27, 1858, Lincoln was equally direct: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

The hero, it seems, was not so much a hero but was rather a calculating politician. Not even the Great Emancipator was a friend to Black people.

Likewise, the Christian Bible purports to express the will of God in how people should be treated; it was summed up in the so-called “Golden Rule,” found in the Book of Matthew: “So whatever you wish that others do to you, do also to them.” It seemed cut and dry. Humans were to treat each other with respect.

But it was yet another myth. The rule applied to human beings. Black people were not humans, as declared in the Constitution. Therefore, White Christian people were not obligated to treat them with respect and honor. In Mississippi, Rev. John Reed Miller, a Presbyterian, declared at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, “The heart of the Gospel is not the treatment of others but … believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Neither Miller nor many to most White people in the South saw any contradiction in that perception of God and interpretation of Scripture.