Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Some Final Reflections On the 2012 Presidential Election

Some Final Reflections On the 2012 Presidential Election:  The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender within the American Electorate
by Kofi Natambu

One month ago on November 6, 2012 the voting public of the United States--some 125 million people--re-elected Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the Republic.  The election was simultaneously both largely predictable in some fundamental respects and yet historic, even unprecedented in others.  What this election also revealed in stark dramatic terms is just how deeply divided the country remains along racial, class, and gender lines and how the two major political parties (and significantly the radical right 'Tea Party' wing of the Republican Party) are currently dependent upon and dominated by these stubbornly persistent trends. The national electoral data and overall demographic analysis of the final election results (click on the the link at the top of this page to see electoral map charts and graphs for empirical specifics) all firmly indicate that Obama and Romney had distinctly different voting constituencies who were strongly divided and at major ideological and philosophical odds on every major political, social, and economic issue facing the country. Furthermore these various groups also formed specific bloc voting coalitions with like minded constituents who in turn voted for and/or against both the perceived and real agendas of the respective candidates on the basis of these widely differing perspectives and desires.  For example, a close analytical examination of the statistical breakdown of regional voting patterns along geographic lines reveals that while Mitt Romney won a commanding 13 of the 15 southern states in the country by a very wide and decisive margin (Obama won only Florida and Virginia by contrast) and thus amassed 149 electoral college votes or a whopping 72% out of his final total of 206 nationwide this domination absolutely collapsed and was nowhere in evidence outside of what I like to grimly refer to as the 'New Confederacy'.  Thus, this regional domination left Romney with only a shockingly feeble 57 electoral college votes total in the remaining 35 states COMBINED with Obama absolutely dominating Romney outside the region by winning 24 of these other states for an additional total of 290 electoral votes outside of the 42 he also won in Florida and Virginia.  This resulted in the President amassing a final total of 332 electoral votes.  Thus  Obama won an incredible 87% of his electoral college votes in the rest of the  country OUTSIDE the south while Romney garnered only a miserable 28% of his electoral college votes outside of the region (it should also be noted here that Romney received 31% of his total popular vote nationally in the south).  It is these stark statistics above all others that exposes the strangely widespread and wildly inaccurate media lie (that too many others who should know better are ignorantly repeating) that this election was somehow even remotely 'close' on a national level. This ridiculous assertion is nowhere near the truth. All superficial appearances and false claims aside what actually occured is that outside the south (whose 15 states constitute 30% of of the entire country!) Romney lost the election spectacularly in the remaining 70% of the country, and in the other 11 states that he did manage to win outside the south eight or 72% of these states (e.g. Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Alaska,  Idaho, and Nebraska) are by far the whitest and most sparsely populated states in the entire country. 

What all this means of course is that contrary to what some clueless and lying pundits, Republican/Tea Party operatives, and "mainstream" journalists have said this was decidely NOT a close "status quo" election and wasn't really nationally competitive at all once one views and honestly analyzes the clear empirical evidence in its statistical totality (which ultimately explains why Obama won the national popular vote by over 5 million votes!) It should also be strongly pointed out in this context that without the combined African, Latino, and Asian American vote going 80% for Obama nationally (just as they did in 2008!) the President would definitely not have won this election.  African Americans for example not only cast 93% of their votes nationally for the President (while Latinos cast 71% and Asian Americans cast 73% of their votes for Obama) but were the final decisive victorious factor in the states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia going to Obama. And just as the Latino American vote proved crucial for the President's victory in states like Colorado, Florida, and Nevada where Latinos make up more than 25 % of the state's population, this also proved to be important to the final tally of votes in even predominately pro-Obama "blue" states like California, Washington, and Oregon where Asian American voters made their considerable electoral presence known.  Moreover given the sobering and disturbing fact that Romney received a whopping 59% of the white vote nationally (to Obama's anemic 39%--four percent less than 2008), it was absolutely essential that there be a strong and unified ethnic/racial counterweight to these rather stark racially divided demographics nationally wherein 62% of all white male voters and even 56% of all white female voters--52 million people or 88%(!) of his final total in all!--voted for Romney.  By a startling and very significant contrast to white women voters for example Black, Latina, and Asian American females cast over 80% of their votes collectively for Obama which-- along with a huge 36% gap between single and married women generally throughout the country wherein single unmarried women voters came out in massive support for Obama-- accounts in the final analysis for the President's final 11% national margin of victory among female voters in general (55% to 44%) and also had a significant impact on the national generational split between voters 18-40 and those voters over 40.  For example, voters under 40 voted over 60% nationally for Obama and those voters 50-65 years of age cast 47% of their votes for Obama while voters over 65 cast only 40% of their votes for Obama.

Finally class and income level divisions were even more stark and clear cut overall nationally.  Upper middle income to wealthy voters (those making more than $100,000) cast 55% of their votes for Romney and those making between $50,000 to $100,000 cast 52% of their votes nationally for Romney (keep in mind here that because of widespread and historically severe and ongoing structural patterns of racial, class, and gender discrimination in the United States whites Americans in general--and white males in particular!--make considerably more income and own far more wealth and property generally than African, Latino, and Asian Americans); by contrast the President won over 60% of the votes of people who make less than $50,000 which constitutes the general living wages of the working and lower middle classes, and even a larger share of the working poor (defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as those making less than $25,000) which becomes a very significant factor when one considers that 41% of the entire national electorate makes less than fifty grand annually (the median income in the U.S. is about $45,000 per year). This class/economic demographic consists largely of adult workers in the national labor force who make between $15,000 to $40,000 annually and can be classified as either living below the poverty line, the working poor, and the working class. This class group voted well over 70% for Obama which more than offset the high percentage of upper middle to wealthy voters who collectively voted for Romney but whose share of the general electorate is  significantly smaller overall,

So there you have it--a general empirical breakdown of the statistics ruling this year's national presidential election.  So please read for your own pleasure or edification and especially pass it along to anyone who stupidly suggests or insists that the 2012 election was "close" or a "status quo election."  That's all BULLSHIT.  Please keep in mind that President Obama won over 62% of the electoral college vote (332-206) and the national popular vote by well over five million votes  or 3% of the 122 million votes cast (8 million fewer overall than 2008!). Also considering that Obama won eighteen million FEWER WHITE VOTES THAN ROMNEY (52-34 milllion votes) it is very telling that the national shifts in the racial, class, and gender demographics generally augurs well for the future of progressive politics in this country IF the liberal to left forces nationally can somehow manage to keep and even expand the current 'Obama coalition' of voters of color, women, poor, working, and middle class voters, and young voters under 40 together and intact.  It still remains to be seen if we can effectively translate this national demographic force and organized electoral energy into a highly mobilized and socially dynamic force for real change in the U.S. political economy, and culture generally--and this is very important and necessary whether Obama and his administration--or any other politician-- is on board or not.  Which of course means that we, OURSELVES, must take control, LEAD, and strongly assert our own collective vision and theoretical, strategic, and tactical ideas and practices that will transform our society and world in OUR lifetimes.  We can and must make this commitment if we are truly serious and clear about who we are and what we say we want to do and be.  Certainly the various diverse human communities and cultural elements are in place in this country to do so.  All we need is the WILL.  There is no excuse for us not to creatively use what we have in the way of knowledge, experience, desire, technology and yes, brothers and sisters, LOVE, to work for and accomplish the revolutionary transformation of our society, our culture(s) and our lives.  There are no more excuses anymore!   It's our turn now...

"Dare To Struggle,  Dare to Win"


Popular national vote totals:

Barack Obama: 65,899,660

Mitt Romney: 60,932,152

U.S. Foreign Policy, Constitutional Law, Drone Strikes, and the American Empire in the 21st Century


This is what it really means to be the "Commander-in-Chief" of a deadly global empire.  In that larger political and ideological context President Obama is just the latest American managerial installment in the venal ongoing series of its historical imperialist "guardians".  But before we as the general U.S. citizenry get too morally indignant about it all one way or the other we should strongly consider and seriously ponder exactly how and why WE continue to give these political/military guardians our complicit and implicit approval, consent, and support (either consciously or via the oblivious default of conscience and social responsibility induced by our collectively agreed upon false innocence)....


The Barack Obama Story (Updated)
by Tom Engelhardt
December 4, 2012 
The Nation

(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

Nothing you don’t know, but let me just say it:  the world’s a weird place. In my younger years, I might have said “crazy,” but that was back when I thought being crazy was a cool thing and only regretted I wasn’t.  I mean, do you ever think about how you ended up where you are? And I’m not actually talking about the Oval Office, though that’s undoubtedly a weird enough story in its own right.

After all, you were a community organizer and a constitutional law professor and now, if you stop to think about it, here’s where you’ve ended up: you’re using robots to assassinate people you personally pick as targets. You’ve overseen and escalated off-the-books robot air wars in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and are evidently considering expanding them to Mali and maybe even Libya. You’ve employed what will someday be defined as a weapon of mass destruction, launching history’s first genuine cyberwar against a country that isn’t threatening to attack us. You’ve agreed to the surveillance of more Americans every which way from Sunday than have ever been listened in on or (given e-mailing, texting and tweeting) read. You came into office proclaiming a “sunshine” policy and yet your administration has classified more documents (92,064,862 in 2011) than any other in our history. Despite signing a Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act, you’ve used the Espionage Act on more government whistleblowers and leakers than all previous administrations combined, and yet your officials continue to leak secret material they see as advantageous to the White House without fear of prosecution. Though you deep-sixed the Bush administration name for it—“the Global War on Terror” (ridding the world of GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever)—you’ve accepted the idea that we are “at war” with terror and on a “global battlefield” which (see above) you’re actually expanding. You’re still keeping uncharged, untried prisoners of not-quite-war in an offshore military prison camp of injustice that, on the day you came into office, you promised to close within a year. You’re overseeing planning that, according to recent reports, will continue the Afghan War in some form until at least 2017 or possibly well beyond. You preside over an administration that has encouraged the further militarization of the CIA (to which you appointed as director not a civilian but a four-star general you assumedly wanted to tuck safely away during campaign season). You’ve overseen the further militarization of the State Department; you’ve encouraged a major expansion of the special operations forces and its secret presidential army, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the US military/ You’ve overseen the further post-9/11 expansion of an already staggering national security budget and the further growth of our labyrinthine “Intelligence Community”—and though who remembers anymore, you even won what must have been the first prospective Nobel Prize for Peace more or less before you did a damn thing, and then thanked the Nobel Committee with a full-throated defense of the right of the United States to do what it pleased, militarily, on the planet! And if that isn’t a weird legacy-in-formation, what is?

I mean, you have my sympathies. The Bush administration did you no favors. You inherited hell for a foreign policy and when it came to matters like Guantánamo, the Republicans in Congress hung you out to dry.

Still, who woulda thunk it? Don’t these “accomplishments” of yours sometimes amaze you? Don’t you ever wake up in the middle of the night wondering just who you are? Don’t you, like me, open your eyes some mornings in a state of amazement about just how you ended up on this particular fast-morphing planet? Are you as stunned as I am by the fact that a tanker carrying liquid natural gas is now making a trip from Norway to Japan across the winter waters of the Arctic? Twenty days at sea lopped off an otherwise endless voyage via the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Did you ever think you’d live to see the opening of the Northeast Passage in winter? Don’t you find it ironic that fossil fuels, which helped burn that oceanic hole in the Arctic ice, were the first commercial products shipped through those open waters? Don’t you find it just a tad odd that you can kill someone in distant Yemen without the slightest obstacle and yet you’ve been able to do next to nothing when it comes to global warming? I mean, isn’t that world-championship weird, believe-it-or-not bizarre, and increasingly our everyday reality?

Aren’t you amazed that your Pentagon has recently issued a directive meant to ensure that armed robots will never kill human beings on their own? Not so long ago, that was the stuff of sci-fi; now, it’s the subject of a bureaucratic document. Tell that to Skynet someday, right?

Who could make this stuff up? Maybe William Gibson—maybe he already did—but not me and my guess is not you either.

Putting Yourself in a Box

I know that we humans are terrible at predicting the future. Still, if I had told you back in, say, 2003 that, in the wake of a lawless administration, we would vote a constitutional lawyer into the White House as a “peace candidate” and he’d do exactly what you’ve done so far (see, again, above), you wouldn’t have believed it, would you? And if I had told you it would be you, I’ll put my money on your laughing me out of any room (not that I’ve ever been in a room with you).

Just the other day, something leaked by two “administration officials” onto the front-page of The New York Times got me started on this letter. In a piece headlined “Election Spurred a Move to Codify US Drone Policy,” reporter Scott Shane wrote that, fearing you might lose to Mitt Romney, you were rushing to develop “a formal rule book,” including “explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures.” You won the election, of course, but Shane claims you’re “still pushing”—though at a far more leisurely pace—“to make the rules formal and resolve…exactly when lethal action is justified.”

To use your term, you are putting “a legal architecture” in place for a process of White House–directed robotic assassination—you call them “targeted killings”—that will assumedly be long-lasting. These are acts that in the years before 9/11, as Shane points out, Washington used to condemn when Israel committed them and that most countries consider illegal to this day.

I understand why the idea of Mitt Romney as assassin-in-chief made you nervous and why you wanted to put him in a straitjacket of drone codification. But it’s hard not to ask—and I’m not the first to do so—what about you? It’s human nature to trust ourselves over the other guy, but has it occurred to you that some of us might have the same reaction to you at the helm of a globalizing robot war as you had to Mitt?

In any case, haven’t you already managed to do to yourself what you planned to do to him—without cutting down the killing appreciably, including the deaths of civilians, children, at least four American citizens and a Yemeni deputy provincial governor who had nothing to do with Al Qaeda? If press reports are to be believed, you’ve already been fully involved in regularizing, bureaucratizing, legalizing and codifying your drone wars. In other words, you’ve put yourself deep inside a developing system in which you no longer have a hope in hell of imagining the world any other way.

Here’s a little history of the process (not that you of all people don’t already know it): You inherited an ad hoc Bush administration program of CIA drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal borderlands that started in 2004 and was originally aimed at top Al Qaeda types. But as will happen, those “targeted killings” became ever less targeted, spreading to lower level Al Qaeda types, Taliban leaders, Taliban "foot soldiers," and finally what came to be called “signature strikes” against “patterns of behavior.” (A group of military-age males with weapons, say, in an area believed to be controlled by Islamic extremists.)

We know that President Bush took you aside at the changeover moment and urged you to continue the drone wars in Pakistan (along with his cyberwar program against Iran). And though it must have been very new to you, you did so, expanding them in Pakistan and extending them in a major way to Yemen, while ever more drone bases were built in key areas of the world and ever more drones ordered up.

As this happened, those wars became ever less ad hoc, ever more organized and bureaucratic. A regular process for deciding on individual “targets” came into being. You had your “baseball cards” (PowerPoint slides on potential individuals to target) that you discussed in your regular “Terror Tuesday” meetings. Where once George W. Bush kept in his desk drawer a “personal scorecard,” a list of bad guys to cross out whenever one of them was killed, you now have an official “kill list.” Where once these strikes were just launched, you got the Office of Legal Counsel to produce a fifty-page legalistic justification for using drones to kill a US citizen. It and other legal memos on drone use have never been released to the public or even to congressional leaders. Still, your top officials feel free to use them to their advantage in public defense of US counterterror policies. (Note that the Bush administration did the same thing with its torture policies, producing Justice Department “torture memos” that “legalized” acts which, in almost any other context, or if committed by any enemy nation, would have been denounced as nightmarish acts of international illegality and that, in the past, the United States had prosecuted as crimes of war.)

Now, Shane reports, you’ve had the urge to codify it all and so institutionalize a presidential right to conduct assassination campaigns without regard to Congress, the American people, national sovereignty, the world, or previous standards of legality. And that is an accomplishment of the first order. I mean—voilà!—you’ve officially created the box that no one can think outside of.

You are—so the story goes—the most powerful man on Earth. From the Oval Office, you should have the widest of wide-angle views. But sometimes don’t you feel that you’re trapped like a rat inside a maze in part (but only in part) of your own creation?

Dreaming Before It’s Too Late

Of course, I’ve never gotten nearer to the Oval Office than Pennsylvania Avenue, so what do I know about how it’s like there? Still, I’m older than you and I do know how repetitive acts rigidify, how one possible way morphs into the only way, how one limited system of living comes to seem like the only option on Earth. It happens with age. It also happens in Washington.

The other day, I noted this little passage in a New York Times report on the discovery of huge quantities of ice on Mercury: “Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for [the spacecraft] Messenger, said there was enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep.” I couldn’t help smiling. After all, the Washington I read about already seems enclosed in a block of ice, which is why, when it comes to the world, it so seldom thinks a new thought or acts in a new way.

If only you could reverse time and take a step back into the world of the community organizer. After all, what does such an organizer do, if not try to free people from the rigidities of their lives, the boxes they can’t think outside of, the blocks of ice they’re encased in, the acts that have come to dominate them and regularly wipe out any sense of alternative possibilities? What’s the point of community organizing if not to allow people to begin to imagine other ways of being and becoming?

Maybe you don’t even realize how you’ve been boxed into, and boxed yourself into, the codifications from hell, almost all based on our militarizing way of life. Outside that box where the bureaucratized killing takes place, where the “wars” are fought, and the battle plans are endlessly recalibrated in ways too familiar to matter, outside the airless world of the National Security Complex where one destructive set of ways has become the only way, there surely are other possibilities that could result in other kinds of worlds. After all, just because you’re trapped in a box doesn’t mean that the world is. Look at the Middle East. For better or worse, it visibly isn’t.

Back in 2009 when you first took office, I wrote a speech for you. In it, “you” told the American people that you were “ending, not expanding, two wars.” I knew that you would never give such a speech (no less read mine), but I did believe that, despite the “wisdom” of Washington, you could indeed have put both of Bush’s wars—Iraq and Afghanistan—behind you. We’ll never know, of course. You chose another path, a “surge” of 30,000 troops, CIA operatives, special forces operators, private contractors and State Department types that led to yet more disastrous years in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the ghostly what-ifs of history count for nothing. Still, haven’t you ever wondered whether something else wasn’t possible? Whether, for instance, sending bombs and missiles into poverty-stricken, essentially energy-less, essentially foodless Yemen was really and truly the way to world peace?

My apologies! I let sarcasm get the better of me. How about: really and truly the way to enhance US national security? Honestly, Yemen? Most Americans couldn’t find it on the map to win the lottery, and according to reports, American drone and air strikes have actually increased membership in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And yet you won’t stop. You probably can’t.

Similarly, don’t you ever wonder whether a “pivot” to Asia, mainly involving military power and guaranteed to exacerbate regional relations in the Pacific is the best way to deal with the rising power of China? After all, what would it mean to go to war with the country which now holds well more than $1 trillion in US debt? Wouldn’t it be like shooting ourselves in the foot, if not the head?

And don’t you ever wonder whether a labyrinth of seventeen (yes, seventeen!) major agencies and outfits in the US “intelligence community” (and even more minor ones), spending at least $75 billion annually, really makes us either safe or smart? Mightn’t we be more “intelligent” and less paranoid about the world if we spent so much less and relied instead on readily available open-source material?

I mean, there are so many things to dream about. So many ghostly possibilities to conjure up. So many experimental acts that offer at least a chance at another planet of possibility. It would be such a waste if you only reverted to your community-organizer or constitutional-law self after you left office, once “retirement syndrome” kicked in, once those drones were taking off at the command of another president and it was too late to do a thing. You could still dream then, but what good would those dreams do us or anyone else?

The Eternal Racist Hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson, Slaveholder and American Founding Father


Paul Finkelman deftly points out the disgustingly obvious  facts below about who and what Thomas Jefferson really was his entire obsessively white supremacist and utterly self serving life, and if by some truly twisted, evil, and perverted "logic" Jefferson WASN'T a despicably vile racist hypocrite then there is absolutely no such thing as either "racism" or "hypocrisy."  Jefferson was first, last, and always the quintessential POSTERCHILD of both these words and their eternally heinous meanings and ANYONE who says otherwise is just as vicious, cruel, dishonest, and PHONY as he was...


The Monster of Monticello

Photo by Tamara Shopsin

November 30, 2012
New York Times

THOMAS JEFFERSON is in the news again, nearly 200 years after his death — alongside a high-profile biography by the journalist Jon Meacham comes a damning portrait of the third president by the independent scholar Henry Wiencek.

We are endlessly fascinated with Jefferson, in part because we seem unable to reconcile the rhetoric of liberty in his writing with the reality of his slave owning and his lifetime support for slavery. Time and again, we play down the latter in favor of the former, or write off the paradox as somehow indicative of his complex depths.

Neither Mr. Meacham, who mostly ignores Jefferson’s slave ownership, nor Mr. Wiencek, who sees him as a sort of fallen angel who comes to slavery only after discovering how profitable it could be, seem willing to confront the ugly truth: the third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.

Contrary to Mr. Wiencek’s depiction, Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience.

There is, it is true, a compelling paradox about Jefferson: when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, announcing the “self-evident” truth that all men are “created equal,” he owned some 175 slaves. Too often, scholars and readers use those facts as a crutch, to write off Jefferson’s inconvenient views as products of the time and the complexities of the human condition.

But while many of his contemporaries, including George Washington, freed their slaves during and after the revolution — inspired, perhaps, by the words of the Declaration — Jefferson did not. Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings.

Rather than encouraging his countrymen to liberate their slaves, he opposed both private manumission and public emancipation. Even at his death, Jefferson failed to fulfill the promise of his rhetoric: his will emancipated only five slaves, all relatives of his mistress Sally Hemings, and condemned nearly 200 others to the auction block. Even Hemings remained a slave, though her children by Jefferson went free.

Nor was Jefferson a particularly kind master. He sometimes punished slaves by selling them away from their families and friends, a retaliation that was incomprehensibly cruel even at the time. A proponent of humane criminal codes for whites, he advocated harsh, almost barbaric, punishments for slaves and free blacks. Known for expansive views of citizenship, he proposed legislation to make emancipated blacks “outlaws” in America, the land of their birth. Opposed to the idea of royal or noble blood, he proposed expelling from Virginia the children of white women and black men.

Jefferson also dodged opportunities to undermine slavery or promote racial equality. As a state legislator he blocked consideration of a law that might have eventually ended slavery in the state.

As president he acquired the Louisiana Territory but did nothing to stop the spread of slavery into that vast “empire of liberty.” Jefferson told his neighbor Edward Coles not to emancipate his own slaves, because free blacks were “pests in society” who were “as incapable as children of taking care of themselves.” And while he wrote a friend that he sold slaves only as punishment or to unite families, he sold at least 85 humans in a 10-year period to raise cash to buy wine, art and other luxury goods.

Destroying families didn’t bother Jefferson, because he believed blacks lacked basic human emotions. “Their griefs are transient,” he wrote, and their love lacked “a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation.”

Jefferson claimed he had “never seen an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” or poetry among blacks and argued that blacks’ ability to “reason” was “much inferior” to whites’, while “in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” He conceded that blacks were brave, but this was because of “a want of fore-thought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present.”

A scientist, Jefferson nevertheless speculated that blackness might come “from the color of the blood” and concluded that blacks were “inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind.”

Jefferson did worry about the future of slavery, but not out of moral qualms. After reading about the slave revolts in Haiti, Jefferson wrote to a friend that “if something is not done and soon done, we shall be the murderers of our own children.” But he never said what that “something” should be.

In 1820 Jefferson was shocked by the heated arguments over slavery during the debate over the Missouri Compromise. He believed that by opposing the spread of slavery in the West, the children of the revolution were about to “perpetrate” an “act of suicide on themselves, and of treason against the hopes of the world.”

If there was “treason against the hopes of the world,” it was perpetrated by the founding generation, which failed to place the nation on the road to liberty for all. No one bore a greater responsibility for that failure than the master of Monticello.

Paul Finkelman, a visiting professor in legal history at Duke Law School, is a professor at Albany Law School and the author of “Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson.”

Thomas Jefferson Was a Racist, Period 
By Paul Finkelman
December 2, 2012
The Root

Thomas Jefferson declared that all men were created equal, but he also owned more than 100 slaves. When others like George Washington freed their human property during the Revolutionary War, Jefferson did not, according to New York Times contributor Paul Finkelman. Even when Jefferson died, his will freed only five of his nearly 200 slaves, and those were his children with love interest and slave Sally Hemings, though she herself remained enslaved after his passing.

We are endlessly fascinated with Jefferson, in part because we seem unable to reconcile the rhetoric of liberty in his writing with the reality of his slave owning and his lifetime support for slavery. Time and again, we play down the latter in favor of the former, or write off the paradox as somehow indicative of his complex depths.

Neither Mr. Meacham, who mostly ignores Jefferson's slave ownership, nor Mr. Wiencek, who sees him as a sort of fallen angel who comes to slavery only after discovering how profitable it could be, seem willing to confront the ugly truth: the third president was a creepy, brutal hypocrite.

Contrary to Mr. Wiencek's depiction, Jefferson was always deeply committed to slavery, and even more deeply hostile to the welfare of blacks, slave or free. His proslavery views were shaped not only by money and status but also by his deeply racist views, which he tried to justify through pseudoscience.

There is, it is true, a compelling paradox about Jefferson: when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, announcing the "self-evident" truth that all men are "created equal," he owned some 175 slaves. Too often, scholars and readers use those facts as a crutch, to write off Jefferson's inconvenient views as products of the time and the complexities of the human condition.

Read Paul Finkelman's entire piece at the New York Times  (See above)

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Thurgood Marshall in 1936 after he joined the NAACP.

"I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.

For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: 'We the People." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons."  On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes  at threefifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years.

These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers' debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the "carrying trade" would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States."

Despite this clear understanding of the role slavery would play in the new republic, use of the words "slaves" and "slavery" was carefully avoided in the original document. Political representation in the lower House of Congress was to be based on the population of "free Persons" in each State, plus threefifths of all "other Persons."  Moral principles against slavery, for those who had them, were compromised, with no explanation of the conflicting principles for which the American Revolutionary War had ostensibly been fought: the selfevident truths "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

--Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1908-1993,  Remarks delivered in speech on the "Framers/Founding Fathers", the U.S. Constitution, and Slavery" on May 6, 1987 in Maui, Hawaii

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, instilled in him from youth an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. After completing high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall, at the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

His classmates at Lincoln included a distinguished group of future Black leaders such as the poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway. Just before graduation, he married his first wife, Vivian “Buster” Burey. Their twenty-five year marriage ended with her death from cancer in 1955.

In 1930, he applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied admission because he was Black. This was an event that was to haunt him and direct his future professional life. Thurgood sought admission and was accepted at the Howard University Law School that same year and came under the immediate influence of the dynamic new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who instilled in all of his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans.

Paramount in Houston’s outlook was the need to overturn the 1898 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson which established the legal doctrine called, “separate but equal.” Marshall’s first major court case came in 1933 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland to admit a young African American Amherst University graduate named Donald Gaines Murray. Applauding Marshall’s victory, author H.L. Mencken wrote that the decision of denial by the University of Maryland Law School was “brutal and absurd,” and they should not object to the “presence among them of a self-respecting and ambitious young Afro-American well prepared for his studies by four years of hard work in a class A college.”

Thurgood Marshall followed his Howard University mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and later became Chief Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During this period, Mr. Marshall was asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania. It was felt that the person who so successfully fought for the rights of America’s oppressed minority would be the perfect person to ensure the rights of the White citizens in these two former European colonies. After amassing an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In this capacity, he wrote over 150 decisions including support for the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search and seizure, double jeopardy, and right to privacy issues. Biographers Michael Davis and Hunter Clark note that, “none of his (Marshall’s) 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the Supreme Court.” In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. Before his subsequent nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. Indeed, Thurgood Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.

Until his retirement from the highest court in the land, Justice Marshall established a record for supporting the voiceless American. Having honed his skills since the case against the University of Maryland, he developed a profound sensitivity to injustice by way of the crucible of racial discrimination in this country. As an Associate Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall leaves a legacy that expands that early sensitivity to include all of America’s voiceless. Justice Marshall died on January 24, 1993.