Walter B. Hoye II, is both Founder and President of the Issues4life Foundation, which works directly with African-American Pastors and Priests nationwide. He became well-known to LifeSiteNews readers after he was arrested and jailed last year for peacefully counseling and picketing at a California abortion facility.
December 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – By 1830 slavery was primarily located in the Southern United States of America and it existed in many different forms. African Americans were enslaved on small farms, large plantations, in cities and towns, inside homes, out in the fields, and in industry and transportation.
By 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, Historian James L. Huston emphasizes the role of slavery as an economic institution. Huston, a leading advocate of secession, placed the value of southern held slaves at $2.8 billion. At about $3 billion in 1860 currency, the economic value of slaves in the U.S. was more than the combined value of all the factories, railroads and banks in the country, or about $12 trillion in U.S. dollars today.
Much of the North’s economic prosperity derived from what Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, called “the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil.” President Lincoln was asking Americans to consider the obligations created by slavery. The first of those obligations is to acknowledge the full truth.
The Full Truth
The full truth is African American Slaves were considered property, and they were property because they were black. Their status as property was enforced by violence and by public policy. Slaves throughout the South had to live under a set of laws called the Slave Codes. The codes varied slightly from state to state, but the basic idea was the same: the slaves were considered property, not people, and were treated as such. The killing of a slave was almost never regarded as murder, and the rape of slave women was treated as a form of trespassing. So intolerable were the conditions under which African Americans slaves suffered from day to day that some went as far as committing suicide or mutilating themselves to ruin their property value.
As an African America, I have asked myself these questions:
1. How could this be justified?
2. Was it not obvious that African Americans were persons, living, breathing human beings?
3. Where was the outrage from the American public?
The Language of Oppression Past
Haig Bosmajian, UW professor of speech communication says: “While names, words, and language can be, and are, used to inspire us, to motivate us to humane acts, to liberate us, they can also be used to dehumanize human beings and to ‘justify’ their suppression and even their extermination.”
In order to justify the inhumane treatment of African American slaves and soothe the conscience of the Americans, dehumanizing terminology, or the “language of oppression,” was established and propagated by way of both “academic” and “legal” opinion at the very highest levels of our educational and legal communities.
From 1815 to 1830, the American Colonization Society: “Free black in our country are … a contagion.”
In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court decided: “A negro of the African race was regarded … as an article of property … a subordinate and inferior class of being.”
In 1858, the Virginia Supreme Court decision declared: “In the eyes of the law … the slave is not a person.”
In 1867, Buckner Payne, Publisher: “The Negro is not a human being.”
In 1900, Professor Charles Carroll: “The negro is … one of the lower animals.”
In 1903 Dr. William English: “The negro race is … a heritage of organic and psychic debris.”
In 1909, Dr. E. T. Brady: “They [Negroes] are parasites.”
The Language of Oppression Present
Today, even while modern medical science clearly and overwhelmingly supports the humanity and personhood of the pre-born child, the same financial motives and oppressive language strategies that were used to oppress African American slaves are being used, right now, to justify killing pre-born children.
For example, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided: “The Fetus, at most, represents only the potentiality of life.” Again, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court declared: “The word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment does not include the unborn.”
In 1979 Professor Joseph Flectcher: “Pregnancy when not wanted is a disease … in fact, a venereal disease.” In 1980 Dr. Mariti Kekomaki: “An aborted baby is just garbage … just refuse.”
In 1984, Professor Rosalind Pollack Petchesky: “The Fetus is a parasite.” Again, in 1984, Rabbi Wolfe: “A fetus is not a human being.”
In 1985, Dr. Hart Peterson on fetal movement: “Like … a primitive animal that’s poked with a stick.”
In 1986, Attorney Lori Andrews: “People’s body parts [embryos] are their personal property.”
Last year, in the Sunday, July 12th, 2009, edition of the New York Times Magazine, the power of the language of oppression to corrupt our conscience was revealed in the words of sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said in an interview that she was surprised at a 1980 court ruling that prevented the restoration of Medicaid funding for abortions, because, in her opinion, when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 “there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
History teaches us, time and time again, that the use of oppressive language to demonize and dehumanize certain segments of the human race is incontestably evil.
In Germany, the persistent portrayal of the Jews as “vermin,” “bacilli,” “parasites,” and “disease” contributed to Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
In the antebellum South, the deliberate and systematic labeling of African Americans as “chattel,” “property,” “beasts,” “feebleminded,” and “useless eaters,” eased the conscience of many and paved the way for the subjugation and suppression of African Americans.
From the East coast to the West coast the defining of the American Indian as “non-persons,” “savages,” and “Satan’s partisans” led to the extermination of a significant portion of the American Indian population.
Yet, today, it appears we have not learned our lesson.
Just as the Jewish holocaust in Germany, the African American slavery in the antebellum south, and the death of countless American Indians were despicable events in our human history that were accompanied by the use of dehumanizing language, so today is the deliberate dismemberment and destruction of the bodies of those most vulnerable among us, among the human race, that is to say the pre-born child, entirely indefensible.
Persons Are Not Property
Human beings are persons and persons are not property. As a civil society we must move beyond the loathsome language of oppression of powerful elite and recognize the inherent, inalienable and self-evident humanity of all human beings. Regardless of the means by which we were procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, or condition of physical or mental dependency and/or disability, all human beings need to be and deserve to be protected by love and by law.
The Unarmed Truth
When Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “I believe that ‘unarmed truth’ and ‘unconditional love’ will have the final word in reality. This is why ‘right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil’ triumphant.”
Today, the “unarmed truth” is that the pre-born child is a person not property.
I believe personhood is God-given and not government-granted. It is not offered to the elite and denied to the “least of these.”
I believe personhood, addresses the most important RIGHT of all … the RIGHT to LIVE, without which all other rights are meaningless.
I believe personhood is RIGHT.
The “unconditional love” for the pre-born child in my heart, is rooted in the love Christ has for all. While the current conditions may have “temporarily defeated” the personhood of the pre-born child, I believe the “righteousness of personhood” is stronger than the “evil of pre-natal murder” and will ultimately prove triumphant.
I believe personhood is the final word in reality of the pro-life movement.
This article reprinted with permission from Issues4Life Foundation