Racism is about control. Since racism is about control, such antagonism becomes informative in the fight against prejudices. There are certain scenarios that may arise in which racism is a key factor. The moral issues that arise in racist situations it must be understood that it is not about how racism affects only the black population but how it affects the entire community, how demonic a person can become because they seek power and control over another person, and how that persuasion can emphasis the evil in humanity.
In order to achieve the break away from the definitive notions of racism, in my paper I will bring together how communities, through the strength and understanding they gain with communication and openness shatter such prejudices.
Active groups represent how racism can destroy a whole community. The KKK infiltrates the models of society by initiating their hate into a close-knit neighborhood. In this situation, racism becomes blatant and part of the norm, such as in southern black culture regrettably. The bonds of submission can become unfettered through the embracing of the society’s own independence, and the power with which they can commit to ending racism. The scenario here is one where a moral code prevents hatred from existing in society by proactive leadership.
One such example of racism and its prevalence comes from Frederick Douglass’ speech given on the Fourth of July. The moral obligation told to the crowd was, how could anyone be celebrating when slavery still existed, and that, what was the Fourth of July to a slave except another day because freedom for them did not exist.
The Fourth of July is a supposed celebration of the liberation of America, and the its state of free reality; to the slave, however, as expressed in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave the Fourth of July has the opposite meaning. That is to say that because of the history of the life of a slave in American culture, the Fourth of July is not a day of omniscient freedom but merely a day of horrifying recognition of the life, that slaves lead.
Frederick Douglass restates to the crowd in his speech that the day is theirs, not his. He will have no part in the celebrations of a day in which his own freedom was denied him, and denied slaves across America. Douglass states that America is a land that is rich in heritance justice, liberty, prosperity and independence “bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me”. This means that the Fourth of July is the white persons holiday in celebration for a supposed national day of freedom when in fact there should be no rejoicing, as liberation is not fully realized in the American way of life.
Douglass points out that it is a joke for him to have been requested to give a speech on such a day, for his own freedom was denied him by the country, as he states, “To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” In this response, Douglass portrays his true feelings about giving this Fourth of July speech.
To the slave then, the Fourth of July is not an empty holiday but one which fills the slave with disgust. It is unconscionable that slavery still exists and even more so that the nation has a freedom holiday when its occupants are in fact not free, but consist of people still shackled and sold into slavery. The Fourth of July is merely a harrowing reminder to the slaves that their own freedom isn’t not prioritized into the nation’s consciousness and this in turn further ridicules the basic humanity of the slave, as Douglass writes, “Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them”.
Thus, racism is still a moral issue in today’s society because of the underground history that subsists with its existence. It is in Douglass’ speech that the moral obligation a society has in prioritizing freedom and ridding itself of racism is so prevalent and necessary.
It is through the publics mere celebration and ignorance of slavery that Douglass censures, for the Fourth of July to the slave reminds them that they have been forgotten, as Douglass writes, “To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world”. The point of Douglass’ speech therefore is the remind the crowd that though they celebrate, there exists their fellow man who is still fettered.
Douglass reprimands the crowd’s attendance, and says that the Fourth of July cannot be celebrated in a country where there still exists slavery; and today this is especially true since the nation has just celebrated its independence yet not only does racism still persistent in America but extreme xenophobia. He tells the nation that their conduct is misguided, and says that the character of the country ‘never looked blacker to me’. Douglass makes it succinct that freedom cannot be embellished while slaves are being sold; by the country having a Fourth of July they are only making the lines of distinction more clear between the races.
Douglass straightforwardly declares that the audience members themselves are somewhat brutes for rejoicing on such a day when there still exists slavery, when slaves are killed simply for learning to read and write. Douglass argues that the slave is a man, and as such, the Fourth of July should also be coincided with the liberation of them. The Fourth of July to a slave is hollow in context and as Douglass writes, “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him”.
The Fourth of July then does not equal a time in which to rejoice and take pride in one’s country, but to be ashamed that the country still incites slavery, still treats the race as secondary citizens, if citizens at all, and as Douglass so eloquently states, “What to the American slave is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim”. The celebration degrades further the fact of slavery, because is boasts of liberty and yet the nation is not entirely free. The celebration, as Douglass refers to it is a fraud, and its deception is that it is enacted with the definition of freedom when in reality such a term is non-applicable to America “at this very hour”.
Thus, it is with the Utilitarianism approach that Douglass suggests a remedy for racism should be conceptualized. The basic good for humanity rests with a concordance of peace, which may only be gained by agreeing to freedom to all people. Though two hundred years have passed since Douglass addressed his Fourth of July audience, the benefits of his moral drive are still speaking volumes. The Utilitarianism approach allows Douglass to chastise, ridicule but ultimately to dissuade a society to begin to eradicate the roots of racism and to allow an entire race to be given back their rightful freedom.
Since racism is about control, then it is only fair to state that after control comes revolt. The consequences of Utilitarianism were lynchings and a rising of more hatred, just as much now as when Douglass spoke. The history of lynchings is relatable to Douglass’ speech because it further exemplifies the way in which American’s perceive the black race which is as brutish. If the black person is considered less than human then lynching or otherwise murdering them has no reciprocal effect because the slave is considered un-human.
Douglass’ speech then signifys to the future of America in that if lynching is a part of its past, then without drastic measures it will remain a part of its future, as Douglass writes, “Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” Thus, with a history already filthy with lynchings, there seems to present itself the further deprecating behavior for America in the future. The abolitionism movement was fueled with evangelical religion, which deemed slavery as a sin. With this motto, members of the movement (both white and black) demanded that slavery be done away with, and terminated completely.
The ability for someone to lynch another person is not only unchristian but it is of itself, brutish in nature and hellish in reality. Douglass’ speech refers to the American sentiment that slaves are themselves brutish and unworthy of learning to read and write, and by this degree they are treated no less than animals in the field. Killing an animal for offensive behavior is not thought of as sinful, and if the white man places the slave down at the animal level then the white man’s conscious is clear, lynching may be committed without fear of reprimand. The aggressions of the country during the Civil War and the common day sentiment on slaves as McPherson (1965) writes, “Freedom has been your legacy from birth; by some of us it has been achieved. We know what oppression is…” (McPherson The Negro’s civil War 15).
It is then with Utilitarianism that peace can become acquainted with the underlying sentiments of racism: Glatthaar expresses in Forged in Battle (1991), “Yet like Southerners, Northern whites had powerful prejudices against blacks…It was one thing, most Northerners reasoned, to regard the enslavement of the black race as cruel and inhumane; it was another to ask Northerners to regard blacks as their equals or welcome them as neighbors and friends” (Glatthaar Forged in Battle 11-12). Through the basic concept of staunching out racism by simply not celebrating the false pretext of freedom racism becomes an issue that is at the forefront of political and social commentary. After commentary comes action, and as Douglass suggests, not only is revolt necessary but a general acceptance of the lie that freedom is in the face of existing racism becomes the main issue. Utilitarianism then is the best approach to racism because it allows for concord after its indulgence and effective usage.
Douglas, F. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. Oxford University Press. 1999.
McPherson, J. M. The Negro’s Civil War. Pantheon Books. New York, 1965.
Glatthaar, J. T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and
White Officers. The Free Press. New York, 1991.
Stanton, E.C. et al. History of Women’s Suffrage Vol. 1. 1887. (Online). Available:
 Joseph T. Glatthaar. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. The Free Press. New York, (1991). 15