Sociologists and historians would remind us that it is the kind of thing to be expected when the country is in social upheaval and economic stress. Folks start looking for scapegoats, and they usually point the finger of blame at some kind of “other” – other race, other gender, other region, other religious group.
But even typical human behavior does not excuse the conservatives’ latest reprehensible idea: To repeal the 14th Amendment – the one that protects citizenship, due process and equal protection; the one that gives the U.S. Constitution its integrity.
In a flat-out panic over the influx of Mexicans across U.S. borders, conservatives have done what people in panic usually do – they react with knee-jerk desperation, grabbing onto anything that looks like a solution, which, in hysteria, nearly anything might.
According to these cretins, pregnant Mexican women only come over here to “drop” their babies so the children will be entitled to the American bounty. Strip away the constitutional guarantee that anyone born here is, by virtue of that fact, a U.S. citizen, and those brown women will have one less reason to sneak over here.
More than a decade ago, I was part of a newspaper project about drastically changing demographic trends. The team reported that the population in much of the Midwest would slowly diminish; that the population of the South would swell, especially among Black Americans; that the White birth rate would freeze; that the Latino birth rate would skyrocket; and that – here’s the big one – Whites would no longer be the majority race.
The series we ran drew a lot of praise in academic circles and seemed to intrigue the readership, but it didn’t exactly stop the presses – understandable, given that demographics is not the sexiest topic.
I suppose it’s a good thing that the articles did not start a fire because that would have only started the panic that much ahead of the reality, giving the no-no’s that much more time to build their political levees against the coming tide. Imagine what they would have done with a 10-year head start on the “immigration problem.”
Only once in U.S. history has a constitutional amendment been repealed. Interestingly, it was the 19th Amendment – prohibition – that was later silenced by the 21st Amendment, when the right to booze was determined to be supreme.
The 14th Amendment was hatched by Congress in 1866 as a capstone to Emancipation and the end of the Civil War and to grant citizenship to the millions of Black people who had been born on these shores during slavery. Two years later, it had been ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states.
The 14th Amendment has been challenged, violated and occasionally disgraced since then, but on the whole, it has prospered and prevailed. There has been no serious talk about nixing it—until now.
Shamefully, many of the proponents of this repulsive idea have taken to calling themselves “constitutionalists,” and little clubs of them have sprouted up all around the country. Right-wing talk radio is one of their regular haunts and there, you can hear them fawning over any one who claims to believe that the Constitution is sacrosanct and virginal, never to be spoiled by modernity or new ideas. For example, they adore the ridiculous Sharon Angle, Nevada’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, because she talks all that “strict constructionist” mumbo jumbo and professes to worship the Constitution, as they do.
The poor Constitution must feel like it’s being stalked by unwanted suitors. She must know that, were she to fall into their hands, they would love her to shreds – ruining her beauty, which is based on her protections: The Fourth Amendment (searches, arrests and seizures); the Eight Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment); the Sixteenth Amendment (income tax) and, of course, the blessed 14th Amendment. These same people have tolerated, if not championed, abuse after abuse, exception after exception, and offense after offense against the old girl they claim to love.
Repealing the 14th Amendment is the sick invention of sick minds, and I’m counting on it going nowhere because we are capable of coming to our senses, even after long bouts of cultural upset.
If I’m wrong and the Chicken Littles are able to persuade the majority of people in 38 states to destroy one of the linchpins of the U.S. Constitution because they are afraid people they think are different might get even a free whiff of the American Dream, then what’s the point? They would have lost their country anyway.
Deborah Mathis is a columnist with the news site, BlackAmericaWeb.com, where this article was originally published.