With all that is going on in the world during this era of the Obama presidency, I opened one of my old Law School Constitutional Law casebooks and reviewed the 1896 case of Plessey vs. Ferguson. One case was called The Dred Scott decision of 1857. In Plessey versus Ferguson, a Black man named Plessey got on a train in Louisiana in 1890. Plessey was, as we say, "light, bright and damn near white." In fact, he was 7/8th's white and 1/8th African. Plessey got in the railroad car and sat in the white section. Apparently, he had forgotten that he was Black or that the law said there was to be segregation of the races on the railroad. Or maybe he was trying to be the Rosa Parks of his day. Consequently, Plessey was arrested, I guess, for sitting while Black. He sued and attacked the ridiculous state laws regarding segregation and, in a sense, he won. That is, if you call the decision of the Supreme Court a win where they said, in effect, that the rail cars could be separate as long as they were equal. I note that this will tell you what we have to look forward to as the present Supreme Court looks at President Obama's affordable Health Care Bill. I must say that I believe that so-called Justice Thomas' wife has already told him to stay in his place and vote to strike down the bill, just like (Massas) Scalia and Roberts tell him.
It was within the Plessey case, which was ultimately overturned by the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education case, that the court cited the infamous Dred Scott case where the court said, "The descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves were not included nor intended to be included under the word citizen in the constitution ... that at the time of the adoption of the constitution, they were considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them."
The shorthand, or street version, of the Dred Scott decision says that "there are no rights that a Black man has that a white man has to honor." I note those old white men on today's Supreme Court and the stories they would tell. Governor Romney tells the world about how his foreparents got ahead by working hard and the story of the struggles his white father and grandfather had on the road. They stayed at hotels while working as traveling salesmen. Those stories don't compare with the stories my grand fathers could tell. Imagine going to jail for trying to ride a train, much less trying to stay at one of those hotels where old man Romney stayed. I have experienced the latter myself while traveling to Oklahoma with my parents on the road in the fifties. My Black Daddy went into the motel lobby to get a room for the night and we watched the vacancy sign go dark as Daddy prepared to drive all night because there was no room for Blacks at the Inn. No, we didn't go to jail, but the car was our jail for that experience. Now they want to add to the profit center for the next generation of Romneys and Santoriums and the rest of the Republicans to shut the doors of education and make sure that health care for my offspring don't have rights theirs have. Unless, of course, they get rich and join the Tea Party.
I could keep writing because there is so much to say, but so little space. There's voting rights, the right to contraception for women, Affirmative Action, and on and on. I could tell you the story of my dad who quit his job as a car detail man and opened his own shop and how the man he quit went to my Dad's new landlord and paid him to raise the rent so Daddy had to close the shop and return to the job. And you wonder why my passion is for education, owning property and entrepreneurship. Now that is a holy trio. I am only seventy years old. I've been honored to interview the ladies that The Journal is highlighting at our Women of Achievement Breakfast on April 28. They are at least ten years older than I am. One is approaching 100. You can only imagine what they had to endure to achieve and open doors for us in the shadow of a world with the backdrop of Plessey and Dred Scott. Just like we are all encouraged to say to our men and women in the armed services, "Thank You for your service," let's come out and meet these extraordinary, pioneering women and hear their inspiring stories. Theirs are the shoulders we all stand on.
The least we can do is to come out to honor and thank them for their service and their actions in opening doors for us all. For tickets and information, call The Journal Office at 626-798-3972.