We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.
Thomas Jefferson said it, but he didn’t believe it. Ask Sally Hemmings, if you think he did.
Jefferson was ahead of his time, but not far enough ahead to resist the pressures to retain his slaves. The French Revolution was so far ahead of history that it ended in dictatorship under Bonaparte. Lincoln was certainly ahead of his time; he freed the slaves, but he could not give them lasting equality.
Throughout human history, human culture has been a repudiation of the idea of equality.
If I were black, my whole approach to life would be different. As a sympathetic white guy, I am angry at the stupidities of race in America. If I were a young black man, I would be pissed. My viewpoint and priorities would different. After all, its hard to remember that you’re trying to drain the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators.
As a white guy, the alligators aren’t trying to eat me, so I can see beyond them. But all I see is swamp.
Hierarchy. It was invented by winners to keep the losers losing. It means “I’m better than you are.” No one ever said, “You’re better than I am”, and meant it.
Race is a handy way of keeping track of who’s supposed to be better than whom. It’s helpful it there is a strong physical dissimilarity between the winners and those who are forced to lose, but it isn’t necessary. In America, a white-looking black is still a black. In Japan, the situation is even worse.
There is a “race” of people in Japan which used to be called the Eta. Now that word has fallen into disrepute and they are called Burakumin. They are utterly indistinguishable from “normal” Japanese, yet they were, and often still are, considered untouchables and subject to powerful discrimination.
Of course things are better among native peoples who have not been damaged by civilization, right? Try reading The Tiwi of North Australia if you think that, or let me tell you about them. Women are controlled by men through arranged marriages. The old men have power, which translates as first choice. Young women are married to old men. Young men are pretty well restricted to marrying old women who have become widows. They will get young women later, when they have grown old and powerful. Does that sound like a fun way to live, for men or women?
In many traditional Muslim countries, the rights of men are many and the rights of women are few. For late breaking examples, see any television, any day.
Nothing is further from equality than a caste system.
If you seek the origin of the word caste, you will find that it is Portuguese, not Sanskrit. Roughly, it means color; the Portuguese who founded a colony at Goa on India’s west coast used their word to apply to the Indian notion of varna, and gave us all a word with new connotations.
In the 60s and 70s, some academics were calling black-white relations here at home an American caste system. There are similarities, but the Indian situation is far more complex. We’ll look more closely at that idea tomorrow.