All Commentary
Saturday, January 1, 1966

Individualism Versus Racism

The Declaration of Independ­ence of July 4, 1776, laid the foundation for a new society among men on grounds that each individual of right ought to be free to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own choice. Human dignity, in other words, involves self-responsibility for life, liberty, and one’s pursuit of happiness.

That essence of the Declaration of Independence is being subor­dinated and forgotten by today’s black and white leaders of the Ne­gro Revolution whose banner is “equality.”

Let us recall what Abraham Lincoln said about this: “I protest against that counterfeit logic which concludes that because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either; I can just leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without ask­ing leave of anyone else, she is my equal, and equal to all others.”

There can be no greater condi­tion of equality among men than this. Anything less than this is slavery; and the direction in which the American people today are be­ing led by civil rights leaders, in and out of government, tends to­ward slavery. A free man is not something emerged from a stew called society. The nature of a man’s thoughts and actions, the life he lives, his concept of him­self are the qualities of being hu­man — the qualities of individuality, rather than the gray same­ness of imposed equality.

The Constitution of the United States was designed to protect the rights of the individual against trespass by other individuals, or by government. But the original code made no provision for the abolition of slavery or recognition of the Negro as an individual. Sec­tion 9 of Article I denied to Con­gress power to prohibit the impor­tation of slaves prior to 1808, and Section 2 of Article IV required the states to comply with the claims of lawful owners for the return of fugitive slaves. Based in part upon these provisions, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1857 that Dred Scott — a Negro slave — did not acquire the rights of citizenship when taken into a free state.

A Civil War was waged before the Thirteenth Amendment cleared the Constitution of a serious con­tradiction and established that, if men are to live as men, they must be free to do so. The Reconstruc­tion Era further clarified the ex­tent to which states’ rights could be practiced without interfering with the individual’s human rights and without denying his civil rights. While these rights had been defined before, they had not been extended to Negroes.

The Constitution, as supple­mented by the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, makes clear that the powers of the state governments as well as of the Federal government extend no further than needed for protec­tion of the human and civil rights of the individual against encroach­ment by government and other in­dividuals. Neither mentioned nor recognized are any “rights of so­ciety,” society having no rights. By 1875, all questions concerning citizenship for Negroes in the United States, and their rights as individuals, were answered in the Constitution.

Solving the Problem Voluntarily

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the question before the people — all citizens, with inalienable rights as mem­bers of the human race — was this: How are we to live together? “In all things purely social we can be as separate as fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress,” answered Ne­gro leader, Booker T. Washington in 1895. The national consensus at the close of the nineteenth cen­tury was that black and white men should live separately; but such consensus did not empower gov­ernments to legislate how men should live or where each must sit, eat, dance, learn, and other­wise lead his life.

Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court’s separate-but ­equal doctrine of 1896 had stood as law until 1954, when the Court reversed itself to the effect that henceforth men must live, sit, eat, dance, and learn in the same places. But the compulsory inte­gration of the schools was no more required by the Constitution nor necessary for fulfillment of the human rights and civil rights of Negroes than had been the com­pulsory separation before 1954. Education is no more the business of the Federal government than is eating or dancing or the seating arrangement on a train or bus.

The Negro role in the civil rights movement gained impetus after the Supreme Court decision in 1954, and their main thrust was to the effect that Negroes had been deprived of their rights as a group. Scarcely anyone bothered to ask what rights inhere in groups or to stand in defense of the rights of the individual. It seems safe to say there were few individuals, if any, among the 210,000 marchers on Washington on August 28, 1963; and the net effect was a Congress and a nation made more race conscious than ever before. The resultant Civil Rights Act of 1964 elevated the dubious principles of altruism, col­lectivism, and racism above life, liberty, and the pursuit of happi­ness.

A Staggering Sense of Guilt

The brotherhood of selfless love espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr., has not left a situation of mu­tual respect among Negroes and whites but a nation staggered by a sense of guilt. Irresponsible leadership in the name of civil rights is conning a nation out of its incentives to productivity into sanctioning the undeserved, caus­ing the freest people on earth to sacrifice that freedom for the com­pulsory equality of slaves.

Civil rights leaders and their followers stress self-sacrifice to the point that self-respect is made to seem a sin. To love and choose without discrimination displaces sound reasons among men to love or choose one person or thing above another. This strained and strange love of racist agitators provokes men to hate them more. They turn simple prejudices into acts of crazed violence — that they might passively endure and resist. They twist man’s right to dis­criminate into an immorality, thrown at a nation as its major guilt. As virtuous victims, they demand freedom, equality, and re­spect for the pitiable little they have to offer, challenging the na­tion to redeem itself by redeeming them.

How goes the redemption? Look in the eyes of blacks and whites who are afraid to think, to judge, to discriminate, and you will see an uncertainty embedded in hatred. Negroes, who are told they have gained the respect and grat­itude of society but who have no self-esteem, are frightened by a power of redemption which they secretly know they — as individ­uals — have not earned.

No rational, self-responsible in­dividual relies upon the racism that plagues the nation. He does not beg for patronage, sympathy, and smiles. Instead of asking that others grant him a living, he knows he has been born with an inalienable right to whatever life he is capable of earning, accord­ing to his own purpose, his own virtues, which others cannot give to him and cannot take away.

Student Demonstrations

It was inevitable that the youth­ful students of America would be drawn by their immaturity into the fight for civil rights. From the beginning of the collective move­ment, climaxed by the March on Washington, the racism of the na­tion was reflected by the young and selfless black and white youth of America.

White youths, in all sincerity, wanted to share the plight of their Negro counterpart. They had no “cause,” so they made his cause their own. They evaded the real issue — that they did not know themselves — and transformed this ignorance into a feeling of guilt for being different from the Negro. In search of virtue, they marched and shouted, “Freedom Now,” clenching a Negro’s hand, entering restaurants with him where they knew he would not be served, scouting the countryside singing songs of deliverance for him.

Young Negroes joined their white counterparts, believing that any happiness to be achieved on earth must be achieved collec­tively; they had never been al­lowed to forget the collective mis­ery of their forefathers. Lacking the individuality that can only come through earned self-esteem, they were content with the mo­tives of the group. Personal mo­tives? None.

Among black and white youth alike, their relationship with the group was primary when it should have been secondary. They hid be­hind the apron of a race, a church, a university, an SNCC, a CORE; and they claimed identities accord­ing to the characteristics of such groups. They repeated to them­selves what others said of them; their self-regard was the regard they thought others had for them; their self-esteem dependent upon the esteem of others; their achievements what others claimed to be achievements; their failures what others said were failures; their place in the world where others said it was. They had no standards of their own; and so these youths were misled. Their guilt was not in being black or white, but in being nothing, in seeking virtue in the impossible, encouraging one another simply to suffer and wave flags.

The fact is that within the con­text of our society, they will al­ways be black or white; and by some persons they will be treated as such, regardless of laws, treaties, and proclamations to the contrary. But a more important truth that escaped those young persons is that they are human beings; that each has a life for which he is responsible; that this is what he holds in common with other human beings; that to live with one another in peace, each must first manage to live with himself.

Such were the “drummer boys” of America who led forth a nation, their elders following, in the rev­olutionary movement capped by the signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. This new law of the land deals with eleven basic aspects of what the nation’s legis­lators call civil rights: voting, public accommodations, public (governmentally managed) facili­ties, school desegregation, the Federal Civil Rights Commission, nondiscriminatory use of Federal funds, equal employment oppor­tunity, voting census, a Federal Community Relations Service, civil rights court procedures, and jury trials.

A careful study of the detailed provisions of these 11 titles under the Act may reveal some minor clarifications of points already covered by the Constitution and existing legislation, as in Title 1 on Voting and Title 10 on Court Procedures. But these are hardly what the civil rights revolution was all about. For the most part, the major provisions of the new Act tend to arrogate powers to the Federal government, in the name of Civil Rights, that are none of the government’s business because they have to do with regu­lation and control of what ought to be strictly private business re­lationships.

The overwhelming tendency of the Act is to deny the civil rights of producers — property owners —in favor of the wishes of those seeking something for nothing, making the Federal government the instrument of compulsion for the implementation of such injus­tice. Thus, the attempt to appease organized racists has invoked a condition of legislative enslave­ment on the entire nation — and it will take a police state to en­force this condition.

  • Anne Wortham is an associate professor of sociology at Illinois State University. She is a rare voice in the liberty movement — a scholar and rogue academic. She wrote her first piece for The Freeman in 1966.