America Founded on Racist Principles — Was Sanders Right?

Sanders standing at podium with Libery University logo behind him

Democratic presidential candidate and socialist Bernie Sanders says the United States was founded on racist principles.

Sanders said,  “I would hope and I believe that every person in this room today understands that it is unacceptable to judge people, to discriminate against people based on the color of their skin. And I would also say that as a nation– the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created, and I’m sorry to have to say this, from way back on racist principles, that’s a fact– we have come a long way as a nation.” [from 9/14/15]

The United States was founded on racist principles? How could Sanders say such a thing?

The United States was based on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents did not specify rights for some, while not for others.

The Declaration of Independence upheld the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Both the spirit and the letter of the government set up by the Constitution were in service to these rights.

If America had been founded on racist principles, the Constitution would have had to be discarded in order to outlaw slavery. While it’s true that the 13th Amendment explicitly outlawed slavery, the basis for doing so had been present all along. The 13th Amendment merely made it explicit, preventing slave states from evading the issue any further.

It’s true that many of the states who entered the Union contradicted the Declaration of Independence and Constitution by their permission of slavery. But this involved errors in the attitudes and constitutions of these particular states, not America’s founding principles.

Not all of America’s founders owned slaves or supported slavery. Even if all of them did, it’s to their credit that they came up with a philosophy (and a corresponding document) of such profound significance for individual rights that it formed the basis for ending slavery, once and for all. If Sanders does not agree, then to whom or what does he credit the elimination of slavery? And how does he explain that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were reinforced after the Civil War, not pushed aside?

The fact is that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution contradicted slavery, rather than upholding it. In fact, if these documents had stood for group or social rights above the rights of the individual, there would have been no glaring tension between the founding principles of the country and slavery, a tension that existed from day one and culminated (nearly a century later) in a bloody civil war.

Racist principles refer to the elevation of race above individuality as the most important factor in government, or in life. By this definition, the founding principles of the United States could not be further removed from the idea of racism. Take the time to read these documents. You will not find a hint or implication of racism in them. They’re all about the preservation of individual rights and the sovereignty of the individual over the group, the gang or the government. Nothing could be more at odds with racism, or any form of collectivism.

It was thanks to the Constitution and Declaration that the southern states were ultimately saved from slavery. The Civil War was a tragedy; but those states went on to thrive with new economies, as never before, proving the practical power of rationally just and moral principles.

It’s really important to understand what racism is. Racism is merely one form of elevating the group above the rights and value of the individual. Founding principles of individual rights do not constitute slavery, and they are not racist.

It’s highly ironic. Sanders is an explicit socialist. He believes that the most important unit of society is the group, and not the individual. While he does not propose a government which elevates whites above blacks, he does propose a government where the needs of the group (determined by the government) take precedence over the needs or rights of the individual.

Sanders might not turn blacks into slaves of white people. But he’s more than ready to turn productive and working people into slaves of constituent groups the government deems worthy. He’s no different than Obama or most Republicans in this way; but he’s absolutely consistent about it, as any socialist is.

Sanders [who was speaking at conservative Liberty University] added, “Now I know, my guess is that probably not everybody here is an admirer or voted for Barack Obama. But the point is, in 2008 this country took a huge step forward in voting for a candidate based on his ideas and not the color of his skin.”

Wrong again. The skin color of the candidate you vote for is not what determines whether or not you are a racist. If given a choice between a white candidate in favor of equal individual rights for all and a black candidate in favor of socialism, the better choice would be for the white candidate. It has nothing to do with race; and everything to do with rights.

By elevating the group above the individual, Sanders makes the world safer for racism, along with all the other “isms” that have made human life miserable throughout the centuries.


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