By Kenneth Brooks
Hypocrisy about the principles of human equality and freedom is a trait of American society. In a few days, Americans will celebrate the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence from Britain. It set out self-evident truths of human equality and creator endowment of certain human rights including life and liberty. However, American society celebrates a model of republican government of free people it never achieved. It cannot achieve this model while denying an opposite history of inequality and oppression.
The Articles of Confederation (1777) set out the perpetual union of States and founded the United States of America. U.S. Constitution (1787) supposedly converted the United States of America to a constitutional republic. It did not achieve this goal. Each individual is autonomous in a republic, but the U.S. Constitution approved government authority to enslave. Despite this history, Americans celebrate Fourth of July as if America’s founders faultlessly installed the government modeled in the Declaration or that society eventually achieved them.
Americans have a bias for rationalizing or arbitrarily dismissing history they dislike. Apologists assert “They were men of their time” in defense of the founders’ immoral conduct of enslaving kidnapped Africans to satisfy goals of greed. What does the excuse “men of their time” mean? It cannot mean they did not understand the principles of human equality, because they claimed them in the Declaration of Independence.
Perhaps “men of their time” means they embraced the race, gender, and class bigotry of the time believing property-owning “white” males were intellectually superior to all others. If so, this bigotry does not absolve them of deliberately violating accepted principles of right and wrong. They affirmed in the Declaration of Independence unalienable rights of humans endowed by a creator. Unalienable rights are rights incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another. The Declaration’s self-evident truths did not include the qualification of exceptional humans with authority to deny human equality and human rights of other people. Otherwise, it would assert self-evident contradictions and not self-evident truths.
Most Americans praise the American model of cultural diversity, respect for difference, as society achieving the Declaration’s model of human equality. History refutes this conclusion made from inverted morality and logic. America used the same skin-color standard of deciding human difference and human worth to justify enslavement, racial segregation, and cultural diversity. In other words, American society’s idea of cultural diversity is respect for the presumptions of human difference decided by racism with racial stereotypes as culture.
The Declaration refers to the human equality and rights of individuals. It does no mention racial or ethnic groups. Individual autonomy and control over self-image are essentials of a union of free people with shared interests. However, individuals sacrifice autonomy by adopting a racial or ethnic-group image because stereotyping necessarily subordinates individual identity to group identity.
America’s founders created a role for government authority over human rights in a Constitution that supported enslavement. Americans increase the domain of government authority over human rights each time one group uses it successfully to deny another group’s human equality and endowed human rights. This is true if the grouping is by race, gender, class, or other classification. Ironically, oppressed groups use of government authority to restore human rights often increases government authority over human rights too.
Americans must refuse government authority over human rights if they want to create United States of America as a Republic of free autonomous individuals. Government authority should extend only to protecting the human rights (rights to life, liberty, property, etc…) of one person from another person’s abuses, but it should never have authority to decide entitlement of rights on an individual or group basis. Americans have the choice of bigotry or freedom.