Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857)

So you know where I’m coming from… #BoycottYourMasters

The name of this blog references the Dred Scott decision and the opinion of Chief Justice Roger Taney, which includes the notorious declaration that Blacks are “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

I’ve always found Dred Scott to be instructive, and not just on the blatant racism that is embedded in our nation’s DNA. Beyond that obvious point is the less considered question of how to define a person or an institution or a Country. Justice Taney was, by many accounts, a fine jurist. While the Dred Scott decision – along with Korematsu v. US – is considered among the worst SCOTUS decisions ever, Taney is not considered among the worst of the Court’s Chief Justices. Nor is the Taney Court usually cited among the worst incarnations of the Court. Clearly, the people who evaluate these kinds of things believe that neither the Court nor Chief Justice Taney should be defined by their worst moments. Perhaps there is some truth to the old saying, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

This comes to mind now in the wake of two significant SCOTUS opinions that seem to represent a break from the past. In Obergefell v. Hodges the Court legalized same sex marriages (#LoveIsLove) and in King v. Burwell, it affirmed the constitutionality of state subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (#ObamacareLives).  Admittedly, the court was less liberal on environmental issues, but all in all, it appears the Court (or at least Justice Kennedy) is taking a step back from its conservative (in the GOP sense of the word) and oppressive world view. Perhaps redemption after Gore v. Bush is possible.

But the US Supreme Court is only one of the institutions that govern this country. At the national, state, local, and corporate levels, the racism of Dred Scott lives on. The homophobia that sparked the Stonewall Riots is far from dead. True national healthcare remains a dream. Our nation’s commitment to diversity will soon be tested before the Court. Higher education is as likely to lead to lifelong debt as it is to economic advancement. Wages have stagnated while corporations are more profitable than they have ever been in the history of human kind. Upward mobility, long an American point of pride, is becoming illusory. There hasn’t been a break from the past for most of our institutions and far too many of the people running them like it that way.

What all these issues have in common is a disregard for the humanity of our fellow Americans – our fellow humans. The simple rule of treating others the way we want to be treated has been forgotten.  This isn’t a warm-fuzzy call to love your fellow man. I’m not that kinda dude. This is a call to confrontation.  If the call to humanity isn’t heard, perhaps it’s time to tap into something more direct.  The liberal element of this country is too passive – too P.C.  It’s time to (re)turn to the most effective weapon in our arsenal: the Boycott.  It’s time we stop subsidizing our oppression.

I’m not just speaking of high-profile organized boycotts (e.g., BDS movement), though those are important. I’m talking about the small personal decisions you make every time you open your wallet or purse.  If don’t like to see chains drive out mom & pop stores, stop spending money at chains. If you don’t like the way a store treats you, stop shopping there. (Portia, remember Talbots?) If you don’t like the way you’re portrayed by a network, stop watching it and stop shopping at the stores that advertise on it. If you don’t like the where a politician stands, go beyond voting for their opponent, boycott the corporations that support that politician. It’s not easy, but it can be done. (Any one who knows me knows there are certain communities I will not shop in.)

The power of the ballot isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps it never was. Poor people and people of color have been gerrymandered into impotence as voting blocks. Current and past incarceration has removed poor and minority voters from the rolls by the millions. In Detroit, car insurance is so expensive that thousands register their car in the suburbs and give up the right to vote in the city just so they have a car to get to work. Add to all of this the numerous Republican efforts to make voting more difficult for the poor and minorities and what you have is a neutered electorate.  But even the poorest, most disenfranchised communities spend money. A lot of it. And right now, they’re spending it with the very companies and institutions that keep them poor.

If you want change, stop subsidizing the status quo. It may not make you a saint, but you can’t have a future if you don’t break from the past.

One thought on “Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857)

  1. Pingback: Campaign Tales: Confessions of a First-Time Candidate | 60us393

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