Since the Supreme Court ruling overturned affirmative action, many people have written their opinions on this ruling. All of them are right, a little bit, but none of them quite address the mastodon in the outhouse. It is true that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all citizens “equal protection under the law,” but that only becomes a reality if the states follow the law.

At the end of the Civil War, the Confederate States’ path to rejoin the Union included affirming their support of the Constitution and ratifying the 13th and 14th Amendments. In 1866 the first civil rights legislation was passed, followed by the 14th Amendment to ensure that the newly emancipated slaves would have the same rights accorded to the white citizens. This amendment was followed by the 15th Amendment giving them the right to vote. For over 150 years the legislatures of these former Confederate States passed laws trying to get around these constitutional amendments. There were Black Codes and Jim Crow laws to deny black men their opportunities to be equal. There were poll taxes and local voting ordinances to make it harder for them to vote. This persistent noncompliance with the Constitution created the circumstances that led to over a century of civil rights actions attempting to make the 14th Amendment a reality, not an illusion.

The real issue underlying the whole system is that while Justice Roberts stated that the courts must be colorblind, society is not. This country was founded by educated, well-to-do white men. They formed a government and wrote a Constitution that was brilliant, and they foresaw that as the nation grew and changed this governing document would have to be amendable. The one thing missing then and still, is that non-white people, women and the poor were not included in the original plan. The Reconstruction Amendments addressed the color issue, but not the women and indigent. We have yet to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Many white people in this country truly do not seem to understand that the laws never have been applied equally to all citizens. If they had, there would be no huge disparity in pay for women and people of color. Our economic system was founded on inequality and cheap labor, first the slaves and indentured servants, then immigrants and child labor. For centuries the wealthy built a great nation on the backs of the poor and disposable.

The immigrants to this country were useful tools to build America, but like the Blacks and women, they were not supposed to be successful. Black Wall Street had to be destroyed and the hugely successful Japanese farmers in California ruined. Women were blocked from advancing in the workplace. Because at the heart of it all is the concept of the superiority of the white male over all others. This is the elephant in the living room. In order for them to stay on top, they pit the minorities against each other. They see any affirmative action to level the playing field as an unfair advantage given to people who couldn’t make it otherwise. What they don’t see is the automatic advantage of being born white and male. Statistics also show that the economic class you are born into is a huge determining factor of how you will succeed. Rich increasingly stay rich, poor stay poor, and the laws are written to the advantage of those with the education, power and money. If the people in power had embraced the 14th and 15th Amendments, affirmative action would have been unnecessary.

Susan Chichetto is a resident of Bath.

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