Black leftist Elie Mystal, a Harvard-trained lawyer, called the U.S. Constitution “trash” on ABC’s ‘The View’, recently. In another interview, he agreed the Constitution needs to be scrapped altogether. The reason he gave is the basis of our discussion today.
Mystal said the Constitution is trash because it was written by slave owners and white people. Black people who look like him were not consulted.
My answer is: so what? The Constitution deals with questions that are universal, not tied to superficial characteristics like skin color. Are people going to be free or not? Will the people rule themselves or be lorded over by an elite? Will people be allowed to speak their minds or not? These are universals, constants of the human condition. None of them have anything to do with skin color.
I reject the premise of Mystal’s argument: that everything in life is to be viewed through the lens of race and nothing created by someone of another race can possibly benefit people of other races. If that were true, then we need to throw out Stevie Wonder’s music because it’s trash, of no benefit to anyone who’s not black. But that’s absurd. Take Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Higher Ground’ for example. The lyrics talk about striving for a better life – “Teachers keep on teaching”, “People keep on learning”, “Don’t let anybody bring you down”, “God is gonna show you highest ground”. Lots of people can benefit from that message. Who is Elie Mystal to announce a principle that would deny that message to people who don’t look like him?
The message of ‘Higher Ground’ sounds a lot like the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The preamble is aspirational. We are always supposed to be striving toward a more perfect Union. I want to quote just a little bit from an article written by a man of mixed race on my Tea Party website which talks about how American blacks completed the Founders’ vision. They worked for equal rights for all, for the universal application of the Founders’ universal words “all men are created equal”. The author wrote, “African Americans refused to accept enslavement as permanent or America as permanently flawed. Although unlettered, they grasped the quintessential meaning of the Revolutionary War: ‘Those principles apply to me, too’.
Elie Mystal did a lot of damage by going on TV and saying the Constitution is trash, but he doesn’t really mean it.
A review of his new book indicates he distinguishes between the Constitution as originally written and the Constitution after adoption of the Reconstruction Amendments – the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that did away with slavery and guaranteed equal protection of the law to all regardless of race. Those Amendments make the Constitution redeemable in Mystal’s view, the review says.
He goes on in the book to propose specific reforms to a Constitution he would preserve. By the way, those Amendments are responsible for the creation of The Nation magazine for which Mystal writes and presumably profits from. An abolitionist predecessor publication no longer had reason to exist after the 13th Amendment, thus The Nation magazine was born.
Further, as Allen West points out, the Reconstruction Amendments were passed by white men so, under the logic Mystal employed on TV, they’re trash and should be thrown out, too, but Mystal praises them in his book. I will point out those Amendments couldn’t exist if the Framers hadn’t had the foresight to include an amendment process in the original Constitution. Doesn’t sound like trash to me, quite the opposite – it was brilliant and everybody benefits from the amendment process the Founders gave us, including women every time they vote.
So let us forgive Brother Mystal for the way he chose to hype his book on TV. Let us engage him respectfully on his reform proposals to a Constitution he wishes to preserve. And let us all strive for a more perfect Union, so that we all reach higher ground. As Stevie Wonder sings to us all, “Going to keep on trying, ‘Til I reach my highest ground.”