This is part of an ongoing series this year on Overcoming the Cultural Inertia that holds our society back.
For those of you that never delved further into history than what was presented in school, and for those that claim to be White allies of People of Color, allow me to present you with a reminder of just how deep, and how far back, into our history the #CulturalInertia of maintaining racial inequality goes.
You can use this reminder especially for all those conservative Republicans you know who like to toss out claims like “Lincoln – a Republican – freed the slaves over 150 years ago; get over it!”
Abraham Lincoln the politician did not recognize blacks as his social or political equals and, during his years as a lawyer and office seeker living in Illinois, his opinion on this did not change. Lincoln was opposed to the institution of slavery during his entire lifetime but, like most white Americans, he was not an abolitionist. In ante-bellum America, abolitionists were a marginal, radical group, and most white Americans did not participate in or endorse abolitionist activities.
A first clue to what Lincoln believed comes from a series debates when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were campaigning to be selected by the state legislature of Illinois as a United States Senator. On September 18, 1858 at Charleston, Illinois, Lincoln told the assembled audience:
“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 … I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman, or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.”
Lincoln. On December 1, 1862, one month before the scheduled issuing of an Emancipation Proclamation, the president offered the Confederacy another chance to return to the union and preserve slavery for the foreseeable future. In his annual message to congress, Lincoln recommended a constitutional amendment, which if it had passed, would have been the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
The amendment proposed gradual emancipation that would not be completed for another thirty-seven years, taking slavery in the United States into the twentieth century; compensation, not for the enslaved, but for the slaveholder; and the expulsion, supposedly voluntary but essentially a new Trail of Tears, of formerly enslaved Africans to the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa.
Instead what eventually was passed as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution laid the ground work for the racial disparity in our justice system by allowing slavery to continue through imprisonment. It states:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”