In American history, time and time again we have seen political parties shift on their thoughts and ideologies on social issues and racism is no different.
In the 1860s and ’70s, it was the Republican Party leading the way in reconstruction in an attempt to help the black community and lift them up coming out of the Civil War. In that time, shortly after the Civil War, former Confederate States, such as South Carolina and Mississippi, started to enact so-called “black codes” that would limit the freedoms of African Americans so that they could not vote, enacted vagrancy laws (laws that said black people must have jobs and permanent residence, and through the vagrancy laws “labor contracts” would be legalized which would institutionalize a second form of slavery. The people who enacted these laws were white Southerners and Ex-Confederates that pushed these black codes. These white southerners would also go on to constitute the “Solid South”, which was when the Democratic Party rose to popularity in the South in response to the Republicans that controlled them in the North. (Sources 1-4, I highly recommend reading them for further information on American history. If we do not learn about the past it is bound to repeat itself.)
The Democratic Party is also the same party whose presidents in the 60’s advocated for Civil Rights and signed into law the 1964 Civil Rights act.
And there are examples upon examples where I could give where both political parties have been on the right and wrong side of the history of Civil Rights for African Americans in this country. Clearly, in America, politics has played a huge role in either enabling or eradicating racism in America.
I must ask the question, why do we make racism a political debate?
In history, it can be clearly seen that both political parties are ever-changing in their efforts in either enabling or eradicating racism, so why do we hold so dearly to these flimsy and altering political doctrines of both of our political parties?
It has to do with the simple nature of political parties and our government. That is that these things, these political parties, are social constructs. A social construct defined by Merriam-Webster is “an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society” (Source 5). Basically, this means a political party is a group of people in the same society that share the same ideals of how our government (which is also a social construct) should be run. Thus, when they come to a general consensus on their ideals, they will deem themselves a “political party”.
A political party exists because society exists, and society exists because people with ideals and ideas exist. A political party is not like a book. Whether or not a person says a book exists or not it will nonetheless continue to exist in reality. But society could all of a sudden say a political party does not exist and it would cease to exist.
Political parties, being that they are social constructs, are very reliant and susceptible to society. But once the political party or social construct becomes so ingrained in one’s society, this leads to prideful people not willing to put their foot down and disagree with their party. This can be owed to a myriad of factors, but one reason may be that people love to feel like they are “for a cause” and “in power”. This, in the end, leads to pride in one’s party that blinds the person to not being able to see and listen to other political perspectives.
As well, in our American society, we have a very racist past that has manifested itself into systemic and structural racism. In America, in all honesty, we have a society in which hate for people is very prevalent.
Racism can be and is expressed in a variety of ways, as just mentioned as systemic and structural for example. However, we must remember where racism comes from and what it is at its core. Racism is hate, and hate originates from the ideals and ideas of people. The same people who can make up a society and can create social constructs.
And this is where the danger lies. We have political parties that are created by a society that has 100s of years of hate and racism, and for some reason, we irresponsibly think that a social construct, which is created by society as previously said, is not influenced by 100s of years of a racist and hateful past, and I will contend present as well. Then we become so prideful in sticking to our political party’s ideologies that we begin to argue over the very nature of whether or not racism is prevalent in our society when it very much is. We become so entrenched in our political party’s doctrine and ideology that we become too prideful to put our foot down and say “This is enough”.
This is what leads to things like conservatives saying “All Lives Matter” in opposition to Black Lives Matter and Democrats saying “All Cops are Bad” when there are a great number of people out there that represent that badge with integrity, honor, and most importantly love for one’s community.
It is important to remember that we should not generalize people, no matter if they are Republican or Democrat. We should treat each person as an individual.
However, I point all of this out because the purpose in saying all this is not to generalize Republicans or Democrats, but is to call out these infectious political doctrines and how they are imbuing, injecting, and infecting dangerous and hateful ideals into people.
We have become so prideful in our political affiliations we are not willing to say, “Black Lives Matter”, and we are not willing to say there are many good cops as well. We blindly pledge our allegiance to social constructs that have been indecisive on whether or not they want to enable or eradicate racism.
It is time we put aside our pride and political affiliations and all come together and admit that racism is very real. And that healing must not start with politics, but with our own minds, our own hearts. We need to create a society in which we remember our hateful past as a lesson to never go back there, we renounce these past hateful ways and stop glorifying our hate (stop glorifying Confederate leaders/statues) in the present, and live for a hopeful future filled with justice for all.
Maybe then we can build social constructs that are unwavering on their promise to eradicate racism on a society filled with hope for a future full of justice, not on a society full of a hateful past.
- Constitutional Rights Foundation. “Southern Black Codes”. Constitutional Rights Foundation, https://www.crf-usa.org/brown-v-board-50th-anniversary/southern-black-codes.html
- Foner, Eric. “Reconstruction”. Britannica Encyclopædia, April 3, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/event/Reconstruction-United-States-history/The-end-of-Reconstruction
- Gustainis, J. Justin. “Solid South”. Dictionary of American History, found on Encyclopedia.com, entry on the website updated on May 27, 2020, https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/solid-south
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Black Code”.Britannica Encyclopædia, August 20, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/black-code
- “Social Construct”. Merriam Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20construct, Accessed June 13, 2020