Thursday, January 24, 2008
What Frederick Douglass and Barack Obama Have in Common
By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD
White male representatives of the thirteen colonies undoubtedly compromised to indicate either explicitly or implicitly in the original United States (U. S.) Constitution that blacks were three fifth’s (3/5) of a person and women were considered property in 1791. Many abolitionists and feminists worked to change this political impact in later years. Two key figures of the respective movement are Abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Feminist Susan B. Anthony.
Both Douglass and Anthony were close friends before the American Civil War beginning in 1861. Douglass performed the eulogy of Anthony’s father in November 1862. However, during the years of 1865 to 1870, Douglass split from many feminists over the issue of passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution. [Note: Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, gives citizens due process and equal protection under the law regardless of race, ethnicity, and natural origin. Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, gives citizens the right to vote regardless of race, ethnicity, and natural origin.]
Anthony and other feminists refused to support the Fifteenth Amendment because it excluded women from the basic right to vote. Douglass, on the other hand, believed with many abolitionists that it was important to secure the rights of African-American males before working to achieve the rights of women. Their argument was both public and private, and there was resentment and hurt on both sides.
Now, we have Obama, the first African-American male, striving to become president of the U.S. He is definitely a neophyte to the political game, but has charisma and a sense of hope to encourage more of the younger generation to participate in the political process which is always a good thing. Also, we have Clinton, the first woman to strive for the highest office in the U. S. She has the experience and factual basis to help bring about change that can be beneficial to all Americans, not just Black America. Both have legitimate chances especially with wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
But, what seems to be appearing under the surface is this classic debate between Douglass and Anthony. I do believe most African-American men would rather see another African-American male assume the helm of Presidency in the U. S. to prove that they are equal to their white male counterparts. However, as an African-American woman, I do feel compelled to see a seasoned woman who has more experience in the political arena than her counterpart and has a track record to get well needed programs for all Americans such as jobs creation with health benefits, lowering the economic gap between black/brown and white Americans, improved FEMA program so that Katrina responses will be minimized, credibility with Israel and Palestine to bring peace in the Middle East as achieved during her husband’s presidency, and bring our troops out of harms way in Iraq in a way that still keeps us ready for the potential terrorist threat to our national security.
So, it is amazing that the Obama v. Clinton campaign of 2008 is taking on the same shape as Douglass v. Anthony from 1865 to 1870. I know the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1920, gave women the right to vote under law. But, wouldn’t it be something if Douglass and Anthony realized that if they were able to include women in the Fifteenth Amendment for the right to vote in 1870, that they would have a powerful coalition to trump the real culprit to their power: white men who want to continue to treat them as either three fifth’s (3/5) of a person or property.
I hope both Obama and Clinton realize that their coalition of both respective interests, instead of division in those interests, will be more beneficial to all America in the long run to end the tyrannical reign of Bush and the Republican regime. However, after watching CNN’s January 21, 2008 Democratic debate on the holiday commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I have a feeling it will probably not come to fruition at least in the next couple of days.