The Constitution of the United States has been viewed by some people as the greatest protector of citizens rights. Other people view the U.S. Constitution as the biggest lie ever written. While its original intent receives kudos, its interpretation and application for certain segments of the population receive failing grades. What has fueled this ambiguity is the treatment of certain citizens with respect to denial of equal protection and due process as established by the Constitution of the United States.
Did the forefathers of our nation outline the principles of democracy in words that speak for all of us? The Declaration of Independence asserts: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men our created equal.‘ The opening phrase of the Constitution proclaim that ‘We the people‘ seek a ‘More perfect Union‘ The Bill of Rights spells out the basic freedoms guaranteed to all Americans.
However, the experience of many individuals shows that these universal principles have not been universally applied.
The equality declared in 1776 belonged, in fact, to white men—not to men of other races nor even to white women. The sane constitution that established our democratic government turned a blind eye to slavery.‘
In ‘Faces at the Bottom of the Well‘ legal scholar Derrick Bell has argued very forcefully that Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those great efforts we classify as successful only net temporary ’peaks of progress,’ short-lived victories that fade into unimportance as racial patterns adapt in ways that Maintain white dominance.
The current 1995 Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action and voting districts support his contention.
Raymond Winburh similarly argues that all people experiencing racism should be educated as to, ‘ who, how and why they are denied the same opportunities that the majority cultures take for granted. Without explicitly teaching the truth about the Afro-American experiences, then education is failing and the inequities will continue to exist.‘
The realization that we live in a country that does not always practice what it preaches, mandates curriculums that educate students about the adverse effects of institutional racism, the limitations of the constitutional guarantees with respect to African-American and people of color and how to take charge of their lives to determine their future. The net result of this education hopefully is to empower students with knowledge that will prevent them from allowing violations of their Constitutional rights
Afro-American children can no longer operate under a false premises with respect to Constitutional guarantees. However, it is imperative that all children be taught their constitutional rights. In addition, African-American children must be taught the ills of racism and its influence on constitutional guarantees throughout the course of history
The lack of recognition by African-Americans and whites of the psychosis that racial prejudice over the years has created in both black and whites must be resolved. Black and White Americans cannot afford to continue to cling to their respective anger and shame. There must be open, honest attempts to understand the harm and danger that the system of bigotry, hate, discrimination, resentment, fear and continued inequitable treatment has caused to each. It is only when this dialogue takes place will resolution occur.
In the socialization of children there is controversy between teaching the truth regarding racists realities and communicating a sense of personal strength and capability. Black children should be taught there are major barriers, but they also need to be taught that they can overcome these barriers. Feagin & Sikes (1994) warn against teaching black children too such optimism about American promises of equal opportunity. These authors argue that black children are owed an obligation. That obligation is that they should be taught about racism and how to deal with it, instead of giving then the false impression that if you get a good education, if you go to the better schools, if you appease the white man, then you will not really have to deal with racism.
Afro-American children have got to realize that things aren’t fair, that there are barriers out there, that there are additional barriers, . . . and that everything we face isn’t because we’re black. But we’re going to face a certain amount of things that are because We are black. . . . if we teach our children on the front end of the tunnel, that that doesn’t have to stop anything. We may have to figure out a different strategy. . . . .Teaching Afro-American children about racial hostility is important, but so is teaching then how to circumvent the barriers they will face.