A few weeks back, I caught Chicago Christian radio hostess Sandy Rios talking to a guest about how students these days are not taught about the United States Constitution. Given her previous assertion that the absence of any mention of God in the Constitution "doesn't matter," I found this rather amusing, but I did not really think it was worth a blog post. However, her exchange with a caller yesterday afternoon seems worth pointing out.
After accusing Barack Obama of being socialist, Rios took a call from an African American woman named Betty who maintained that the United States has always been a racist society.
Betty: When you first wrote the Constitution, you said that we were three fifths human.
Sandy Rios: No no Betty, that’s not true. Somebody’s got you confused on that. That was the Dred Scott decision and that was overturned.
Betty: It was in the United States Constitution.
Sandy Rios: No no. No ma'am, it was not.
While I do not agree with everything that Betty had to say, on this point, Sandy Rios was the only person who was confused and who was doing the confusing. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution reads: "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." (emphasis added) It does not appear that Justice Taney cited the apportionment clause in his Dred Scott opinion although he certainly embraced its spirit. Moreover, Dred Scott was not really overturned so much as mooted by the 13th and 14th Amendments, the latter of which also revised the apportionment clause. In any case, Betty is quite right that the Constitution originally treated Negro slaves as less than fully persons.
As Mark Twain so wisely said: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." I cringe to think how many evangelical Christians in the Chicago area listen every afternoon as Sandy Rios spouts her misunderstandings of law and government. Unfortunately, I have encountered a number of them trying to get my local high school district to get rid of books that offend their sensibilities.
For anyone who is interested in further inanities from Rios, check out the following clip from Real Time with Bill Maher, in which she explains how the United States has earned the right to put permanent military bases in Iraq.