"Though the colored man is no longer subject to barter and sale, he is surrounded by an adverse settlement which fetters all his movements. In his downward course he meets with no resistance, but his course upward is resented and resisted at every step of his progress. If he comes in ignorance, rags and wretchedness he conforms to the popular belief of his character, and in that character he is welcome; but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence. In one case he may provoke contempt and derision, but in the other he is an affront to pride and provokes malice.”
September 25, 1883
Nearly one hundred thirty years after Frederick Douglass made this astute observation, a Juneau, Alaska man by the name of Gordon Warren Epperly filed a complaint in the Alaska Division of Elections saying the following with regard to President Obama's eligibility to be President:
Office qualifications for the President of the United States is set forth in the Constitution for the United States of America at Article II, Section 1, Clause 5:
"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."
and in regard to Barack Hussein Obama II as a Presidential candidate, the citizenship qualifications set forth in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution for "Negroes" and "Mulattos" applies.
OK let me push the pause button right here. This guy Epperly doesn't even make it 2 pages into the complaint before he screws up the Constitution. The "citizenship qualifications" for "Negroes and Mulattos" in the 14th and 15th Amendments??? What Constitution are YOU reading, pal, because the United States Constitution that exists in this place that we call reality has no such qualifications for Black people or folks of mixed racial backgrounds. You can read the entire text of the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment to see for yourself. At most, the 15th Amendment states that the right to vote shall not be denied to anybody on the basis of race, but that's about as far as it goes on the racial talk. There are no special "qualifications" carved out for Blacks or people of mixed backgrounds when it comes to being a citizen.
But Epperly doesn't stop there. On pages 5-6 of his complaint, he alleges the following:
Ladies and gentlemen, please take note: in addition to being one of the most blatantly racist (and honest) statements that any Birther has made to date, this just might be the most poorly constructed attempt at a Constitutional argument in the 223 year history of Constitutional arguments.
As stated above, for an Individual to be a candidate for the office of president of the United States, the candidate must meet the qualifications set forth in the United States Constitution and one of those qualifications is that the Candidate shall be a "natural born citizen" of the United States. As Barack Hussein Obama II is of the "mulatto" race, his status of citizenship is founded upon the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the [purported] ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the race of "Negro" or "mulatto" had no standing to be citizens of the United States under the United States Constitution."
As the Fourteenth Amendment is only a grant of "Civil Rights" and not a grant of "Political Rights," Barack Hussein Obama II does not have any "Political Rights" under any provision of the United States Constitution to hold any Public Office of the United States government.
For the sake of clarification, let's dispense with the obvious first. Epperly has, in his own mind, defined "natural born citizen" as meaning Whites only since Whites were the only people in this country who were technically "citizens" at the time the Constitution was adopted in 1788. This is a strict constructionist argument so extreme that not even Clarence Thomas could support it. It is true that in 1788 when the Constitution was written, Blacks were slaves and were only counted as 3/5 of a person. However, the thing that Epperly fails to understand is that when an Amendment is added to the Constitution is becomes the Constitution. Not only does an Amendment become the Constitution, it also overrules any prior language existing anywhere in the Constitution that contradicts the Amendment. So for example, when the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, it said:
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."This made the "3/5 or a person" language in Article I null and void as of 1868. Every court in America knows this. Every first year law student knows this. Even people who have nothing do with the law know this. The only person who doesn't seem to understand this concept is Epperly. What Epperly seems to want to do here is to ignore the 14th Amendment, ignore any and all cases that have ever interpreted the 14th Amendment, and act as if Blacks are still 3/5 of a person without any rights to be President. Moreover, even if the 14th Amendment was, as Epperly says, only a grant of "civil rights," the very next Amendment which he seems to ignore - that would be the 15th Amendment - gave Blacks the right to vote which clearly evidenced the founding fathers' intentions to grant to Blacks not just civil rights but also political rights as well.
Putting the law aside, what is most fascinating about Epperly's argument here is that he finally says what many Tea Party/Birther activists have been wanting to say since Obama took office: a Black man has NO BUSINESS being President of the United States. Period. Point blank. A drug dealer, drug addict, pimp, convict, pauper, etc.? Sounds good to us. A rapper? Sure. An athlete? No problem. We'll even let you be a businessman, doctor or lawyer. But President? OK now you guys have gone too far!
As Frederick Douglass aptly opined over a century ago: "ignorance, rags and wretchedness?" No problem. However, "a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman?" Problem.
1. Is Epperly merely voicing what has been on the hearts and minds of Birthers and/or Tea Partiers for years?
2. What do you make of Epperly's Constitutional argument that Blacks have no "political rights" to be President?
3. Do you feel Frederick Douglass' quote is still as valid today as it was in the 1800's?
4. If so, what does that say about our racial progress as a nation?
5. If not, how do we reconcile sentiments such as Epperly's?