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D’Souza: Where Do Civil Rights Come From?

From Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, pp 92-95.

Let’s enumerate the rights supposedly conferred by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The Brown decision, in ending school segregation, allegedly established the right of blacks to freely avail themselves of public facilities without legal restriction or prohibition. In other words, it was a freedom decision.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 famously guaranteed blacks, women, and other minorities the right not to be discriminated against in jobs and government contracts. The Fair Housing Bill of 1968 extended this antidiscrimination provision to housing. So these two pieces of legislation provided equal rights under the law. They were social justice provisions.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteed to blacks and other minorities full enfranchisement, in other words, the same right to vote that whites enjoyed. It was an equality provision.

Where These Rights Come From?

Yet what was the constitutional basis for these actions? Desegregation and anti-discrimination laws both relied on the notion that blacks weren’t slaves any longer; rather, they were free and could make their own choices. This freedom, however, had been secured for blacks by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which permanently abolished slavery. Thus, the Thirteenth Amendment was the original freedom charter for African Americans.

The desegregation court rulings and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Bill were also based on the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This Amendment granted citizenship to blacks and established equal rights under the law. It was the original social justice manifesto for blacks, women, and other minorities.

Finally, the Voting Rights Act attempted to secure for blacks full enfranchisement, the right to vote. But blacks already had the right to vote. That right was specified in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment declared that, as citizens, blacks had the same prerogative to cast their ballots as whites and all others. The 1965 Voting Rights Act merely sought to enforce an equality provision that had been constitutionally affirmed much earlier.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments were passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. They were passed by the Republican Party. The Republicans enacted these measures then to secure the freedom, equality, and social justice that Democrats keep harping on today. To further promote these goals, Republicans also implemented a series of Civil Rights laws: the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Act of 1867, and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

The Republican ethos underlying these landmark provisions was aptly framed by the great abolitionist Republican, Frederick Douglass. Douglass said, “It is evident that white and black must fall or flourish together. In light of this great truth, laws ought to be enacted, and institutions established—all distinctions, founded on complexion, and every right, privilege and immunity, now enjoyed by the white man, ought to be as freely granted to the man of color.” 2

This was the clarion cry taken up by the GOP in the aftermath of the Civil War. Virtually all the black leaders who emerged from that era were Republicans who supported the GOP’s call to remove race as the basis of government policy and social action. Historian Eric Foner writes that black activists of the antebellum era embraced “an affirmation of Americanism that insisted blacks were entitled to the same rights and opportunities that white citizens enjoyed.” 3

Notice that the GOP program—articulated by Douglass and affirmed by black leaders—is none other than the color-blind ideal outlined in Martin Luther King’s famous “dream.” King envisioned a society in which we are judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. This is substantially what Douglass and other black Republicans called for, more than a century earlier.

How interesting that the Democrat, Martin Luther King, is identified with a principle that the Republican, Frederick Douglass, expressed even more eloquently so much earlier. How bizarre that the Democrats are presumed to be the party of civil rights when the very content of civil rights was formulated and developed by the GOP.

Very few young people know this history. Most of them haven’t even heard about Douglass; who hasn’t heard of Martin Luther King? Am I suggesting that the scandalous neglect of Douglass and the excessive praise heaped on King is part of the progressive whitewash? You bet I am.

But, say the Democratic and progressive historians, wait a minute! While King’s program moved forward and was enacted into law, Douglass’s program was halted in its tracks. We cannot forget about the backlash!

Yes, indeed. The Democratic storytellers are right that there was a powerful backlash against blacks in the South, so that the constitutional provisions of freedom, equality, and social justice became a dead letter. The Civil Rights laws were stymied, and even the provisions that passed were ignored. Blacks were reduced to new forms of subjugation not identical with, but reminiscent of, slavery. This re-enslavement of blacks was enforced by a juggernaut of violence epitomized by that institution of domestic terrorism, the Ku Klux Klan.

This part of the story is true enough. What the storytellers omit, however, is that the Democrats are the ones who caused the backlash! They are the ones who from the beginning opposed black freedom and black equality, undermining voting rights and equal treatment under the law. They were the true enemies of racial and social justice.

Moreover, the Democrats did those things not just through political and legal measures but also through domestic terrorism. Indeed, the Ku Klux Klan was a licensed instrument of terror and intimidation unleashed by Democrats and operating for the benefit of the Democratic Party.

Consequently, it was Democrats who, from the 1860s through the 1960s, prevented blacks as a group from enjoying their rights through political opposition and violent acts of terror. Democrats now claim credit for allowing blacks to have the civil rights that they themselves violently prevented for a hundred years.

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