The failure of Axios to report that Trump supports white nationalist policies

The 14th Amendment guarantees our right to citizenship and our right to equal protection under the law, even if we as a nation have ignored this basic truth.

Axios is vapid.

In a story that looks plain enough on its face, Axios reported their Exclusive: Trump targeting birthright citizenship with executive order.

The story treats the idea as if it’s merely another political plank, standard operating procedure, a debatable position. It’s clear that Axios, as a publisher, believes this idea because of the lede and the headline.

But this is vapid. And it’s vapid because the lede isn’t, “Trump to end birthright citizenship.”

The lede is, “Trump proves he wants white ethnostate, a key white nationalist plank.” To report this, they’d have to know the history of the 14th Amendment, why it exists, and why it guarantees birthright citizenship.

Clearly, they don’t. If you don’t, I’ll share what I learned from Mr. Ray Provo, the high school civics teacher who demanded that I understand the U.S. Constitution, its historical development, and the history and reason for all of the Constitutional Amendments that were put into existence. Including and especially the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment begins with Dred Scott.

Dred Scott was a person born into slavery. The person who claimed he owned Dred Scott took him to a state where slavery was illegal. Dred Scott sued that man, and lost in the Supreme Court. The court said essentially that Scott had no standing to sue because he wasn’t a citizen, and that his freedom would deprive the man who claimed he was his owner of property rights. This was 1857, the Civil War started 4 years later.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed anyone in slavery. The 13th Amendment clarified that the only condition under which slavery was legal was prison. This would come back to haunt the US in the 20th century.

Neither legal framework granted citizenship, however. The laws around naturalization were clear, only white peoples of European descent could be citizens. Neither law reversed the Dred Scott decision. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provided a legal framework for citizenship, and said that anyone born in the United States (with the bizarre and racist exception of Native Americans, the first peoples), were citizens. The bill was vetoed by Andrew Johnson, specifically because it was a threat to white supremacy. He also questioned whether 4 million freed slaves were prepared to be United States Citizens.

The right of Federal Citizenship thus to be conferred on the several excepted races before mentioned is now, for the first time, proposed to be given by law. If, as is claimed by many, all persons who are native-born, already are, by virtue of the Constitution, citizens of the United States, the passage of this pending bill can not be necessary to make them such. If, on the other hand, such persons are not citizens, as may be assumed from the proposed legislation to make them such, the grave question presents itself, whether, when eleven of the thirty-six States are unrepresented in Congress, at this time it is sound policy to make our entire colored population and all other excepted classes citizens of the United States? Four millions of them have just emerged from slavery into freedom. Can it be reasonably supposed that they possess the requisite qualifications to entitle them to all privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States?
- President Andrew Johnson, March 27, 1866, “Veto of Civil Rights Act of 1866”

Congress overrode Johnson’s veto, and the law was passed April 9, 1866. Since the issue of citizenship was contentious, with Johnson claiming that Congress had no authority to grant citizenship to African-Americans (part of the basis of his racist Veto), the ironclad 14th Amendment was drafted by Congress, to guarantee citizenship unambiguously to people like Dred Scott, to guarantee their rights across state lines and more. There could be no question about citizenship with the 14th Amendment.

It stood with this understanding for 28 years. After Reconstruction was ended in 1877, the former Confederacy enacted various Jim Crow laws to subjugate people like Dred Scott again. After 1877, states in the former Confederacy began to segregate white citizens from others, and create separate places for African-American and other peoples to congregate. One of those places was Louisiana.

In 1890, Louisiana’s racist legislature passed the Separate Car Act, which required separate black people and white people to be placed in separate spaces on railroads, including separate railway cars.

In response, a group of black, creole, and white New Orleans residents formed the Comité des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens) to repeal this law and fight it. The Committee of Citizens convinced mixed-race Homer Plessy (classified in the absurd racist systems of the time as an ‘octaroon’ because he was so-called 1/8th black) to participate in a test case. Plessy was classified as black under Louisiana law, and thus required to sit in the black car. When this happened, Plessy sued the State of Louisiana.

The case was presided over by the racist judge John Howard Ferguson, who ruled that this was merely a case about railroad regulations, and that Louisiana had the right to regulate railroad companies while they operated within state boundaries. Plessy was fined $25, and then appealed. The appeal went to the Louisiana Supreme Court, then finally the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court decided in 1896 against Plessy.

In 1896, Plessy V Ferguson made two things clear.

One, Plessy was a citizen and had standing to sue under the 14th Amendment.

Two, the separate train car he was forced to ride in was of equal quality to the one he wasn’t allowed, thus satisfying the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Thus was born the central legal plank of Jim Crow, “Separate But Equal.”

It took nearly 60 years, until Brown V Board of Education in 1954 to reverse this egregious decision, and reaffirm the purpose of the 14th Amendment.

There’s no background about any of this in the Axios article. I don’t think the people interviewing Trump had any of this basic understanding, something I learned thankfully due to a great high school civics teacher, whether or not anyone else did. Instead, they run with the plain headline, without this background.

And without the background, it looks like just another case. But with the background, something becomes clear.

Trump can’t just do this. He can’t just wave a wand and take away citizenship. To do such a thing, he needs a lot of other people to agree with his racist policy. He has to have more people in the White House who say, yes, this racist policy is a good idea, let me promote it. He has to have people in the media who pretend this is a reasonable idea, who don’t tell the truth about the racism of the idea. He has to have judges, who agree with his point of view, who refuse to see the racism, to implement this policy.

Trump has to have a lot of people agree with his racist policy for it to happen.

And that’s what needs to be clear, that no matter how much anyone protests, this is flat out white nationalism and naked white supremacist racism in action.

That’s why I think Axios missed the real story, here.

And in my mind, that makes them complicit in spreading the racist ideology of white nationalism.

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