Change in the Conflation and Confluence of Equality and Freedom

Until the expressions of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, Freedom was most often described as a Civil Right not a human right.

Jefferson’s revolutionary exclamation that “All men are created equal.”, transformed the notion of equality among humans from an ethereal ideal, into a Human Right…

Throughout the history of this country, there has been a constant and consistent conflation of the two independent concepts as a result of a uniquely American continuous confluence of the concepts.

Virtually every American political, social, and economic institution rests on the two philosophical and ideological pillars of freedom and equality.

For purposes of this discussion:

‘confluence’ is defined as: a coming or flowing together,
meeting,  at one point;

‘conflation’ is defined as:
combining two closely related, but separate, things into. a. composite. whole, and treating them accordingly.

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared in its Dred Scott decision, that all blacks — slaves as well as free — were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permitting slavery in all of the country’s territories.

Taney — a staunch supporter of slavery and intent on protecting southerners from northern aggression — wrote in the Court’s majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.”

Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, “all men are created equal,” Taney reasoned that “it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration. . . .

When the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791, the liberties it provided were withheld from the hundreds of thousands of Africans living here in slavery. That same year, a free African-American, Benjamin Banneker, challenged the way blacks were seen and treated by whites in America in a public letter to Thomas Jefferson. In this letter, Banneker pointed to the contradictions between the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, and the continued existence of slavery.

In courteous but forceful words, Banneker called on one of Jefferson’s own great Enlightenment principles, an ideal that intimately tied together political liberty and religious faith in a democracy—the idea that God creates all men equal:

“That one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties; and that however variable we may be in society or religion, however diversified in situation or color, we are all of the same family, and stand in the same relation to him.”

Thomas Jefferson was ambivalent and conflicted on the matter of slavery. Although he denigrated blacks as “inferior beings” in the harshest terms he seemed to be against slavery on moral or religious grounds. However, he was never in favor of social or political equality:

“In 1779, as a practical solution to end the legal enslavement of humans, Jefferson supported gradual emancipation, training, and colonization of African-American slaves rather than unconditional manumission, believing that releasing unprepared people with no place to go and no means to support themselves would only bring them misfortune. In 1784, Jefferson proposed federal legislation banning slavery in the New Territories of the North and South after 1800, which failed to pass Congress by one vote.[6][7] In his Notes on the State of Virginia, published in 1785, Jefferson expressed the beliefs that slavery corrupted both masters and slaves alike, supported colonization of freed slaves, promoted the idea that African-Americans were inferior in intelligence, and that emancipating large numbers of slaves made slave uprisings more likely.[8] In 1794 and 1796, Jefferson manumitted by deed two of males he had kept as slaves; they had been trained and were qualified to hold employment.”

—-Wikipedia

In the wake of recent police murders, most notably the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of a cop, there has been much ado about the need to reform, rethink, revise, and reimagine police policies, procedures, and protocols.

The discussions and debates over proposed changes in police and policing may be where the rubber meets the road for black people re freedom and equality in certain instances, but it is still just the tip of the iceberg re the institutional and systemic racism that goes back more than 400 years and transcends the time when as Lincoln put it:

“…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

Lincoln’s iconic reaffirmation of the confluence of the concepts of freedom and equality rings down through history to this day.

However, through the centuries, that ringing of liberty and equality has been hollow for the millions of black people who have lived and died through American history as a people enslaved, subjugated, excluded, segregated, and oppressed, often by the same qualities and virtues that make America what it is today.

Ostensibly, our guiding ideal and our abiding goal is a multiracial, multicultural, egalitarian democracy.

So, here’s the question:

Regarding the nature, effect, and impact of race and racism on this country’s development and history re reaching our goal of “liberty and justice for all”, can you identify and describe an American institution or system that DOES NOT need to be changed?

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