What's It Like To Be 3/5 of a Person?
by C.A. Matthews
February is Black History Month. I thought I'd explore topics linked to the African American experience. One thing that's always been a puzzle to me as a mostly white person born in the 20th century is what it was like to be considered 3/5 of a person.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this short article. It might come as a surprise to many Americans that while enslaved people weren't entitled to vote, own land or even their own bodies they were considered 3/5 of a person when it came to the population census. This meant that the South had way more representation in the US House of Representatives than it had voters. This is one reason why slavery was allowed to grow and spread across the country in spite of reservations held by other Americans.
Now, before you object and say something like, "Well, women and children couldn't vote, either, so things were pretty fair representation-wise for voting males between the North and South," just listen to yourself. You're assuming that only African Americans males couldn't vote, and you'd be wrong. Before 1920, most white women and children at least had some legal rights, but at that time Asian immigrants and Native Americans didn't even count as persons at all.
Zip. Nada. Native Americans obtained citizenship and voting rights in 1924. Indigenous
peoples are often the very last to have any legal standing in white settler-colonial
societies, but Asian Americans couldn't vote until 1948. Blows your mind doesn't it?
Do you feel super awkward in saying the pledge with the phrase "with liberty and justice for all" now? Do you feel extra stupid for ever thinking the United States of America is now and has always been a "democracy" where all human beings are treated equally? You should.
So, what's it like to be considered a partial person (or not even a person) without any legal standing? I think the closest any modern American can come to empathizing with how demoralized enslaved people must have felt is when a person finds out he/she can't afford badly needed health care.
Consider this scenario: You're deathly sick or in great pain. You go to a local medical facility, and once there you are forced to plead for assistance to ease your suffering. Hours later, you're finally told, "Sorry. You don't have any private health insurance we can bill. You don’t have enough savings in the bank to cover the costs of the treatment. We can't do anything for you. Have a nice day."
In your agony as you crawl away, you realize all hope is lost. You might look like a person, but you aren't really a person, are you? You have no legal rights or protections under the law not to suffer and die needlessly because of your lack of money or health insurance status. You're very much an object that can work a job, pay taxes, pay rent, pay off student loan debt, etc., but let's face it. If you don't have any health insurance or a personal fortune and you become ill and need medical treatment in the US you simply don't exist legally.
You simply don't exist. Just like Native Americans, enslaved Africans, Chinese laborers, and so many others on this continent have experienced over the last half-millennia, you are here but you're also not here at the same time. Perhaps we should call an individual caught in this horrible state of affairs a Schrödinger’s Person after the famous thought experiment involving a cat.
That's about as close as I can get to what being considered 3/5 of person
must have been like for enslaved people. And what did it feel like for them once the
Emancipation Proclamation declared they were no longer enslaved?
Eventually African American males would be considered a "whole
person" as a voter. I suppose on paper it sounded wonderful, but Jim Crow
laws, poll taxes, and other devious ways soon prevented African Americans from voting.
These racist actions prevented "whole personhood" from ever fully
taking. Some of these tactics continue on to this very day under the guise of
gerrymandering districts, strict voter ID laws, and preventing ex-felons from being able to vote again.
Potential Black voters exist and don't exist at the same time. Sound familiar?
The saddest thing about the 14th Amendment granting personhood to African Americans is that corporations used it to argue (and win) the right to be considered "persons" in their own right. This travesty led to recent Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United, which equates money with free speech.
Corporations have never suffered the evils of discrimination like African Americans and others have, but they possess all the legal rights of personhood. Corporations have "free speech" through spending large sums of money to purchase politicians' cooperation at all levels of government. Bought-off politicos gladly do their corporate masters' bidding by relaxing worker protections and environmental regulations. Corporations force their workers to increase productivity but share little of the company's profits with them, thus creating the "wage slaves" of the 21st century.
Are you starting to grasp now what being 3/5 of a person really meant and continues to mean to all Americans to this day?
Isn't it time we emancipated ourselves from the tyranny of our corporate
slave masters? Isn't it time to consider an Earth Day General Strike?
Happy Black History Month. Never forget that you are a whole person with legal rights. Never let the corporations take them away from you!
Black History Month: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
Three-fifths Compromise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-fifths_Compromise
Democracy in America? https://www.rsn.org/001/democracy-in-america.html
Democrats Renew Title 42, Trump's Racist Border Policy https://www.directleft.com/p/democrats-renew-title-42-trumps-racist
ICE Jail Accused of Abusing Black Immigrants https://truthout.org/articles/democrats-demand-biden-close-ice-jail-accused-of-abusing-black-immigrants/
US Border Patrol Hiding Information https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/community-voices-project/story/2022-01-28/opinion-u-s-border-patrol-hiding-information
State Standards Misteach the Meaning of Reconstruction https://popularresistance.org/how-state-standards-misteach-the-meaning-of-one-of-the-united-states-most-important-eras/
Seen on Twitter:
The Biden Boom of maintaining slave wages during inflation is par for the course for this slave driver as nothing fundamentally changes. pic.twitter.com/3YkThAeutU— #Immediatist, because I hate slavery (@Lvld_Up) February 4, 2022
This worker abuse is fucking ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/7alCW5PpbF— ☭ 🇨🇺 jσєуաrecκ'ˢ Ɗуѕтσριαη Ƒυтυяє 🇰🇵 🙃 (@joeywreck) February 4, 2022
A small-town Mississippi library is facing tremendous financial pressure from its mayor after putting up a display featuring pro-LGBTQ books -- and he's citing his conservative Christian faith as the reason why, even though several of the books are by Christian authors.
The display includes memoirs by a transgender pastor and a survivor of gay conversion therapy, as well as a collection of essays titled "The Queer Bible."
Now, Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee is using his personal religious beliefs to justify withholding $110,000 from the library, even though he lacks the legal authority to do so. The mayor says he won't release the badly needed funds until the library agrees to remove the books.
McGee's anti-LGBTQ bigotry doesn't reflect the Christian values of love, dignity, and equality. Let's make sure he hears from a nationwide movement of Christians who are sick of seeing our faith hijacked to censor books and exclude LGBTQ people.
In an interview with the local newspaper, Madison County library director Tonja Johnson said the mayor told her the books "went against his Christian beliefs, and that he would not release the money as the long as the materials were there."
In a stunning display of Christian nationalism -- abusing his office to merge personal religion with government -- Mayor McGee even told the library director that "the library can serve whoever we wanted, but that he only serves the great Lord above."
McGee is not only turning his back on Madison County's LGBTQ and non-Christian residents; he is also attacking the religious freedom of all pro-LGBTQ Christians. He should listen to Johnson, the library director, who gave this beautiful quote to the Mississippi Free Press about why LGBTQ books matter to the whole community:
"Those books are for all of us: whether we can see ourselves reflected in those materials or so that we can develop understanding, empathy and respect for someone else... We all live in this world together. We sit next to people in church, we work with people, we live next door to people, our children go to school with children who don't look like us and don't have the same experiences.
"If we're going to be together, we have to at least understand each other's stories."
Thank you for everything you do to love your neighbor and honor the image of God in LGBTQ people.
- Guthrie, Rev. Nathan, Karli, and the Faithful America team
"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice." - Proverbs 12:15