The patriots who formed the United States sought to build a country “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” as Abraham Lincoln would put it in the Gettysburg Address roughly a century later. Founders like Thomas Paine railed against the notion of a monarchy as existed in the United Kingdom. One House of “Lords” and another House of “Commons”? Preposterous! Paine long sought true equality for all, “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”
While the mission was noble, the execution was flawed at the outset. Slavery was legal. The country denied women the right to vote. Native Americans couldn’t obtain citizenship.
These issues were slowly fixed over time. Slavery was technically abolished in 1863, women got to vote in 1920 and Native Americans obtained citizenship in 1924. While laws were amended and continue to be amended (same-sex marriage was legalized just in 2015), there are many “soft biased laws” which still hurt minorities. Those laws have the appearance of being noble or generic, but are the legacy of the White Christian founders.
Bias Against Non-Christians
Consider “Blue Laws” which keep stores closed on Sundays which exist in various parts of the country today. They were instituted to get people into Christian churches on Sunday without distractions. No mind that there are millions of people who don’t have church on Sunday. The law’s defenders concoct excuses of giving workers a rest which is absurd; let private enterprises decide how it elects to run its business.
Similarly, the idea that certain establishments are “grandfathered” and needn’t adhere to new regulations clearly benefits older residents. An established church may not need to update its fire code or have certain property setback and parking specifications, but a new mosque would be burdened by the new rules and costs. Passing a law of no new churches keeps the Catholic churches in place but prohibits the establishment of a single synagogue.
These are laws which directly impact people’s lives.
There are many examples of “soft bias” which are not laws, but make clear that non-Christians are not an inherent fabric of America.
Consider all presidential proclamations from George Washington until today which end with “in the year of our Lord.” The Common Era is viewed as just that, a popular convention; “Anno Domini” is left to the Vatican. Using such language may not have direct impact on how non-Christians live their lives, but makes clear they are not part of the fabric of America.
Bias Against People with Disabilities
While the United States doesn’t put forward laws which discriminate against people with disabilities, it has functioned in preference for people who are fully able-bodied.
For years, cities built sidewalks with high curbs, making it impossible for those in wheelchairs to navigate the streets. Many subway stations have no elevators and for years buses were configured in a manner which made it virtually impossible to be boarded. While municipalities collected taxes from everyone, not everyone could take advantage of services, just because of their physical situation.
Hypocrisy of the Government
In the 1960’s the government instituted a number of laws which made it a criminal offense for companies and individuals to discriminate against a variety of protected people:
- Equal Pay Act of 1963 protects men and women from sex-based wage discrimination in the payment of wages or benefits, who perform substantially equal work.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as amended, protects persons 40 years of age or older from age-based employment discrimination.
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Sections 501 and 505, as amended, protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on disability.
The list goes on.
Despite over 50 years of the government passing laws prohibiting people and companies from discriminating, the government itself continued its own forms of discrimination.
The United States was founded on the incredible notion of equality under the law. Complacency for ongoing shortcomings is neither excuse nor virtue. As a society we must continue to improve upon the founders’ mission, not rebel against its cause.
Thomas Paine said “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” Let’s continue that original revolution of America’s founders.
Related First One Through articles:
In Defense of Foundation Principles
From “You Didn’t Build That” to “You Don’t Own That”
Inclusion versus Attention, and The Failure of American Leadership
The U.S. is Stealing Real Choices from the Voters
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