Racial stereotyping, unfortunately is still with us. Certainly, there is less of the negative stereotyping of African-Americans that was typical fifty years ago; but one stereotype persists -- that in politics, blacks are a monolithic bloc that invariably supports liberal Democrats. As popular as the liberal Democracy is among African-Americans, that appeal is not universal.
For Martin Luther King Day this year, I would like to honor four African-Americans who have courageously stood at the forefront of the state sovereignty and libertarian movements.
Walter E. Williams
Walter E. Williams is America's best known black conservative, with columns published in 140 newspapers and articles appearing in academic journals and other publications. He is a popular substitute host on the Rush Limbaugh radio program, where he delivers his opinions and answers callers with vast knowledge, warmth, and wit.
However, the economics professor at George Mason University is also an outspoken constitutionalist, libertarian, secessionist, and critic of today's "civil rights movement". He has written repeatedly in favor of state sovereignty resolutions.
A persistent racial theme in his work states that the problems of the black community (and he acknowledges there are some) have more to do with federal government policies than with what we customarily refer to as racial discrimination. For Prof. Williams, state sovereignty, and even secession, are remedies to an overbearing federal bureaucracy.
Prof. Williams's arguments give the lie to the notion of the federal government as the protector of the African-American people. A free society will improve the lot of all people, regardless of race.
Thomas Sowell is a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Like Prof. Williams, he is an economist and a widely published columnist; and like him, has been critical of race-based policy, such as affirmative action. Prof. Sowell began in rural North Carolina, moving to Harlem at the age of 17. Initially a high school dropout, he supported himself at various jobs, eventually landing a position with the federal government. Following service in the Korean War, he got his GED and studied economics at various institutions, culminating with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1959. During the 1950s, he acknowledged that he was a Marxist, a position he later rejected when he performed a study of the impact minimum wage laws and found that higher minimum wages reduced employment.
Since then, he has been an outspoken critic of Marxism and proponent of libertarian ideas. He has also been critical of liberal media bias, militancy in U.S. foreign policy, and judicial activism.
I was unable to locate anything from Prof. Sowell’s writings on secession.
Prof. Sowell's website
There is no question about Ian Baldwin's secessionist credentials. He is the founding editor and publisher of Vermont Commons, an avowedly secessionist newspaper and website that is frequently quoted here. He came to secessionism by way of a lifetime of passionate concern for the environment and for rebuilding life on a human scale. Secessionism has not been easy for him – he has taken it contrary to the opinions of his family and many of his friends. With his wife Margo he founded Chelsea Green Publishing Co., for 25 years a publisher of books on “the politics and practice of sustainable living.”
Perhaps the spirit of Ian Baldwin (pictured at left with his granddaughter Charlotte) is best expressed in his own words, published in the inaugural issue of the printed Vermont Commons:
But now, in April 2005, and from this moment forward, there are reasons to hope. Fear, as one of our presidents cautioned, is our only real enemy. While the world shakes, and we with it, we need to turn to each other and open our hearts and minds. We need to speak and to listen, to hear and behold “voices of independence” that rise from the depths of everyone, regardless of education, status, employment, race, gender, creed, from all of us who livehere, in this river- and hills-bounded place, our own immortal land: Vermont.
And that is what this new journal is about. How do we return to our roots, with all the new things we have learned in the course of a century, the good and the bad? How can we feed ourselves again; transport ourselves without having to wage wars to do it; light our homes without destroying the lands of others or divesting our children of a safe future? How do we shelter and warm ourselves without laying waste to the land around us, which gives us our peculiar soul as Vermonters; how do we heal and care for our sick without succumbing to debt beyond bearing; how do we educate our children without the gun of federal law leveled at our temples? In this journal we endeavor to explore those issues, and much more.
Our bag is full of questions seeking answers.
Vermont Commons continues to live up to that vision, and in so doing inspires the rest of us, even in far-flung places like Ohio.
H. K. Edgerton
H. K. Edgerton's photo (right) will probably arouse a sense of cognitive dissonance. How in the world does an African-American associate with the Confederate flag? * Very simply, because he is proud of his heritage, which includes ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. He is a secessionist because he wants to preserve his distinctly Southern culture and, like the rest of us, free it from the tyranny of Washington.
In his website Southern Heritage 411, he exhaustively documents the historically valid reasons that the War between the States was fought – and the preservation of slavery was not prominent among them. He explains that 50,000 blacks fought on the Confederate side for the same reasons that Japanese-Americans fought for America in the Pacific Theater in World War II ** – first to defend their homes and families from outside aggression, and secondly, to prove to the world that they could fight with as much integrity and valor as anyone else.
Mr. Edgerton neither ignores nor condones the fact that slavery existed, and acknowledges that some slaveowners greatly abused their slaves; but he points out that some of those slaveowners were black. In other words, contrary to what most of us were taught in school, not all blacks in the antebellum South were mistreated or oppressed.
And, by the way, he's no "Uncle Tom" either. Mr. Edgerton was president of the Asheville, North Carolina, chapter of the NAACP in the late 1990s, and serves as chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the Southern Legal Resource Center. ***
* The flag is actually that of the State of Mississippi, but you get my point.
** Despite the fact that their families were being interned in concentration camps on the order of the United States Government.
*** Not to be confused with the Southern Poverty Law Center.