The U.S. Constitution created the governing framework for the American republic but it’s the Declaration of Independence that provided the raison d’être (reason to be) for the republic’s creation.
Much like Pharaoh, Jefferson condemns the government he founded with his own words. You see this oft-referred to “American Experiment” was not founded upon the principles that Jefferson espoused in the Declaration, but on the pernicious and malevolent idea of white male privilege (WMP). No amount of rhetorical embellishment will change the fundamental character of the founding of the United States. If you sprinkle sugar on a pile of manure, it’s still a pile of manure.
No matter what legal rationalizations are used, the Jason Stockley verdict is one more reminder that the effective purpose of American law is to maintain the order of WMP. So everyone in the streets protesting that verdict had a moral duty to be there on behalf of our collective humanity, establishing, once again, that this order governs without our consent and its power is not legitimate.
Speaking of the protests on Friday night, we need to address one more issue, the concerns of white moderates and their African-American collaborators. You know who I’m talking about, the “I support your goals but can’t support what you’re doing to achieve them” crowd. The definitive answer to this objection was written over 50 years ago and is as cogent today as it was the day it was written.
“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. … You would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham city jail on April 16, 1963.
“I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. … I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to ‘justice.’”
I wrote this commentary so the young activists involved in the serious work of social change are not slowed by the need to provide a public rationale for their work to those of us not physically active in the struggle, and so they will know (if they care) there is substantial historical intellectual and moral justification for their position, and so they know there are some old heads who believe in them and uphold them.
Mike Jones is a member of the St. Louis American editorial board and the State Board of Education.