Why don’t Black lives matter? Is it because according to the Constitution we are still just three-fifths of a person? Is it because our communities seem poorer than others? Or is it because when we dress in a hoodie, we are a threat? Could it be because law enforcement just sees us as the enemy, no matter who we are, where we are or what we look like? Is it that we will still be the target of the police because they just don’t see us as human? And if we are not seen as human, our lives really don’t matter.
When the so-called Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, it included the three-fifths compromise, which said for matters of representation, enslaved peoples (aka Negroes) were to be counted as three-fifths human. According to Article I Section 2.3 of the Constitution, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
There it is in black and white. We only count as three-fifths of a person.
When the 14th Amendment was enacted in 1868, it included rights, privileges, due process and equal protection for all Americans. It says in Section 2:
“Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”
So that meant that we were now able to be counted as a full human, but it would be almost another 100 years until the Voting Rights Act was passed that guaranteed our right to vote, even though the 15th Amendment was supposed to have made that guarantee decades earlier. It stated, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Although these amendments are well and good and should have made real changes in the way America looks at people of color, they have done little, not only because the Congress did not enforce the amendments for more than 100 years, even though they had the power, but also because the language of the three-fifths compromise was never removed from the Constitution.
We are a whole people and should be treated as such. This language gives law enforcement and others the right to see us as subhuman, because we are still only three-fifths of a person in their eyes, just enough to be targeted and killed by white, trigger-happy law-enforcement officers or “almost cops.”
The language of the Constitution must be changed. We must eradicate the three-fifths clause; that would be one step in the right direction for equality under the law.
But we must still focus on the issue at hand. Those who are supposed to protect us are killing our people at an alarming rate. The fact that we have to be protected from the protectors is tragic. So today more than ever, we must to take to the streets, to the airways and reiterate to everyone who will listen: BLACK LIVES MATTER!