HCR74 : Denounce the Dred Scott Decision Today. #NewVision
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HCR74 is a resolution bill for the State of Missouri to formally denounce the Historic Dred Scott decision. It is impossible to speak of American history without acknowledging the centrality of the State of Missouri’s role in creating and perpetuating our nation’s historic racial divides. The 1820 Missouri Compromise set the boundaries between slave states and free states. In 1852, at the 8th Circuit Court in downtown St.Louis, the Missouri Supreme Court denied an enslaved Dred and Harriet Scott the freedom that was legally theirs. In the Court's opinion, Justice John Ferguson Ryland called the pursuit of emancipation and the abolitionist sentiments in other states "a dark and fell spirit". He then accepted the generational consequences of the injustice being committed.
"Since then not only individuals but States have been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery, whose gratification is sought in the pursuit of measures, whose inevitable consequences must be the overthrow and destruction of our government. Under such circumstances it does not behoove the State of Missouri to show the least countenance to any measure which might gratify this spirit. She is willing to assume her full responsibility for the existence of slavery within her limits, nor does she seek to share or divide it with others. As to the consequences of slavery, they are much more hurtful to the master than the slave. There is no comparison between the slave in the United States and the cruel, uncivilized negro in Africa.... we are almost persuaded, that the introduction of slavery amongst us was, in the providence of God, who makes the evil passions of men subservient to His own glory, a means of placing that unhappy race within the pale of civilized nations."
The case went from there to the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome in 1857 essentially stripped the Negro race of legal recognition not only as citizens, but as actual humans. In the beginning of the SCOTUS majority opinion, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote:
The question is simply this: can a negro whose ancestors were imported into this country and sold as slaves become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen, one of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution?
Concluding he says:
In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the
class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the
people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.
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They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social
or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of
mechandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute; and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in
matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.
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Now recognized as the most embarrassing SCOTUS decision in our history, it laid the foundation for over 100 years of terror in the Jim Crow South and set an ideological precedent for classifying whole groups of people as less than human. It concluded that the best way for the dignity afforded by "all men were created equal" to be restricted to the white ruling class, was to remove the humanity of the Negro people. This ideology (the dehumanization of a person, class, or group of people) has had devastating and far reaching implications well beyond the boundaries of black and white racial tensions. From zoning laws, violent crime, homicide, healthcare, jobs, education, mass incarceration, to the opioid crisis, sex trafficking, physical/sexual abuse, gender equality, etc. The 13th and 14th Amendments stripped this decision of it's legal power, but did not remove it's social or cultural impact.
But we were created in the image of God. On the basis of that understanding, our oppressed foremothers and forefathers persevered. They pursued the manifestation of a society on the earth that reflects the dignity and the worth that has been ascribed to us in heaven. While there are social and political debates about what injustices persists today; American legislative, judicial, and social history is replete with examples of the systemic violation of that core reality.
What has been much harder to acknowledge and pinpoint today is the psychological, emotional, and spiritual impact of these violations. Due to unhealed wounds from an all too present past, Missouri continues to experience flashpoints of racial unrest that have become national tipping points. Justice John Ferguson Ryland invited the consequences of these decisions into the land and 162 years later, the generational pain of his words landed in the city of his namesake: Ferguson.
Missouri's injustices have contributed nationally to the historic and present day pains of American race relations. Yet because of this grievous history, I am filled with great hope for a glorious future. I'm starting this petition to support the legislation that Representative Mike Moon (R) introduced to the House Judicial Committee several years ago.
It is now being sponsored by Representative Steven Roberts (D) in hopes that as a state, we can play our key role in the healing of our national wounds through a wholistic approach to restorative justice. It is in this arena of the heart, the mind, the spirit that we must all (black, white, hispanic, asian, republican, democrat, etc.) win dire victories together if we are to hope for any form true healing, reconciliation, or justice.
In post-apartheid South Africa, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela understood the power of intentionally righting the historical wrongs beyond legislative change. Therefore they established a federal truth and reconciliation commission to explore the wholistic impact of their history on both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Simply adopting HCR 74 as a resolution, is a small act that would be a major step toward the Truth and Reconciliation that we need, in concert with the various pursuits of justice that are happening in our state. It is somewhat common for modern governments to formally denounce past laws that no longer reflect the ethos or sentiment of present day society in order to ensure that the law is no longer referred to as a precedent or standard for future law-making. It also adds to the record, that the present governmental system is not in agreement with that past tradition. Missouri has never done that, so in effect, even if subconsciously, this ruling still holds influence in Missouri.
I am confident that bringing resolution to this generational desolation in the state of Missouri; closing this door that his been open 160 years too long, will help to bring salve to an infected wound that is festering not only here in our state, but across the nation.
For our call to action, we need this legislature with it's history of drawing DIVIDING lines, to draw a UNITING line that everyone can stand on. Taken from line #46 of the bill, we are asking them to DRAW THE LINE between our unjust past and our present inequities, to make way for a much more equitable future. Here is a link for you to read the actual bill: (new link coming soon!)
I'm hoping to secure at least 1,000 signatures to show our state legislature that the people of Missouri and others across the nation are eager to shut this door.
UPDATE: ROUND ONE VICTORY! On Tuesday, May 1, 2018 HCR 86 PASSED through the Judiciary Committee in a unanimous 9-0 vote. But the push has only just begun.
UPDATE #2: ROUND TWO VICTORY. On Monday, May 7th, HCS HCR 86 passed through the House Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee in a unanimous 11-0 vote. Now it will go to the House floor for debate and a vote. THEN we will need your help to contact our senators.
UPDATE #3: HCR 86 made it to the Senate floor on the last day of the 2018 General Assembly but never made it to a vote due to the close of the Session.
UPDATE #4: It has been reintroduced as HCR 10 in the 2019 General Assembly by Rep. Mike Moon. The bill did not make it through.
UPDATE #5: Representative Steven Roberts (D) has reintroduced the bill HCR 74 in the 2020 General Assembly.
For today, please sign the petition and share it with friends!
Special Thanks to those legislators serving on the following committee's for standing on the right side of history!
Missouri House of Representatives Judiciary Committee
Missouri House of Representatives Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee
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