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Opinion

Race is critical


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jun. 18, 2021 - 8:20 PM

The late Shelby Foote, who penned the three-volume history of the Civil War called “The Civil War: A Narrative,” stated:

Any understanding of this nation has to be based and I mean really based on the understanding of (the) Civil War. I believe that firmly, it defined us. The revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars began with the first World War did what it did, but the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became — good and bad things.

There has been much written and expounded upon recently regarding United States History and race. The history of every country has been impacted by race, and we are not exempt. Just a sampling of events reveals the racial component that is prevalent in our own history.

The Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander H. Stephens held this view:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

The Constitution contained three specific provisions based upon race. The slave trade was protected until 1808; for Representation and taxation, slaves were considered 3/5 of a person; and slaves escaping bondage to a free state had to be returned.

The 1857 Dred Scott decision declared: “... a perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery. …” The 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision codified segregation based upon race.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in tribes forcibly removed to west of the Mississippi River. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 suspended Chinese immigration for ten years — eventually extended — and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization.

FDR’s Executive Order 9066 in 1942, resulted in the incarceration of well over 100,000 Japanese — the majority native born Americans — in internment camps during World War II.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 both addressed racial discrimination.

Just recently Congress passed and President Biden signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act; the impetus for this law being the myriad of different attacks against our Asian population.

We are told in the preamble to the Constitution that it was established in order to, among other things, “form a more perfect Union,” and “promote the General welfare.” If we are ever to bring the lofty goals that the Founders laid out in the Constitution to fruition, we simply must become a more tolerant society. I believe that one of the keys to tolerance is acknowledgement of our history.

A history of the United States, sans the impact of race, is a sadly sterilized non-history.

Lawrence Burns

Newnan