I read a lot of editorial pieces that express resentment because of a perceived injustice. Here are just a few:
- Heterosexuals offended because same-sex couples' right to marry has been recognized
- Jews affronted when a rabbi advocates justice for Palestinians (she advocated for several other wrongs to be righted as well)
- Trump-ettes blaring about denying asylum, no less citizenship, to foreign workers and refugees
- And of course, whites indignant that blacks affirm that their lives matter
In all of these issues, Dred Scott invariably gets mentioned, typically as a symbol of a man treated unjustly by an errant Supreme Court ruling.
Let's be clear: no one today suggests that Dred Scott should not have been freed. They reference the Supreme Court decision declaring him a piece of property to be unjust—to him and all enslaved persons of the day—because he had an innate, fundamental right to be free. That is not debated. What is debated is the role of the Supreme Court in deciding what rights are granted under the Constitution.
So here are my questions to those feeling aggrieved when the rights of others are affirmed:
- Your rights are not abridged under Obergefell—why can't everyone enjoy religious and civil liberties?
- Are your values so fragile that you cannot embrace justice for all people, even those outside your "group"?
- Should your fears and prejudices trump everything else? Have you no tenderness toward or generosity for individuals impoverished, oppressed, and threatened?
- Does your ignorance of the history of blacks in this country blind you so that you cannot understand that Black Lives Matter is a civil rights movement as legitimate as any this country has ever seen—and benefitted from?
We all do better when we help others do better. We all live more freely when we support others living freely.
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.