All Created Equal? A Sinister Doctrine


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



“Dignity and rights”  remain for millions of people today a noble dream, but

not an existing status.   Freedom and equality have never been universally existing

qualities of human life; they are goals towards which all decent people must strive.  



Books by Wilson Jeremiah Moses

Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (1988)  / The Wings of Ethiopia  (1990)

 Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (1992)  / Destiny & Race: Selected Writings, 1840-1898  (1992) 

 Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth (1993)

Liberian Dreams: Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s  / Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History (2002)

Creative Conflict in African American Thought (2004)

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All created Equal?  a Sinister Doctrine!

By Wilson J. Moses

29 September  2012


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, 10 December 1948 declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights . . .”  These words, often viewed as deriving from the American Declaration of Independence, represented a noble goal, but they were obviously at variance with existing facts.  Most persons born in Stalin’s Russia in 1948 were not born free.  Victims of the caste system in India came into this world with little dignity, and the Negroes of the United States and South Africa were endowed at birth with severely abridged rights. 

The Declaration of Human Rights banned slavery and proclaimed an intention to eradicate it, but many people then, as now, were born in legal or illegal subjugation to the will of others.   “Dignity and rights”  remain for millions of people today a noble dream, but not an existing status.   Freedom and equality have never been universally existing qualities of human life; they are goals towards which all decent people must strive.   To pretend that equality exists in the secure present, rather than in the hazardous future, is to engage in a cruel hoax, that often justifies human suffering.

If we were truly born equal in terms of natural endowments or social status, there would be no need for governments to look after the health education and welfare of their citizens.  There would be no need for programs to correct injustices based on gender, race or class.  There would be no need for handicapped parking, no need to recognize learning disabilities, no need for the The Massachusetts health care insurance reform law, no need for Social Security, no need for labor unions, no need for food stamps, and no need for student loans.

There is dark side to that God of Nature that Thomas Jefferson invoked when he declared that “all men are created equal,” for the same egalitarian rhetoric that could be employed to argue for the downfall of tyrants might easily be warped, as it often is, to pretend that all persons have an equal chance in the race of life.  If might imply that all persons are endowed by their creator with an equal chance in life’s competition, and that those who fail at competition do so through some weakness of the will.   After all, government can certainly have no responsibility to remedy inequalities, if all persons are created equal.

Jefferson was not quite so callous as to adhere to such beliefs.   He recognized the need for government to develop what we today would call “a level playing field” — at least for whites.   For this reason, he sponsored an education bill in Virginia that entitled white children, regardless of economic need, to be educated up to the level of their abilities.  Some would be taught basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, while others of greater ability would learn Euclid and Horace, and become prepared to study at the University of Virginia, which he founded.   But even this mild Jeffersonian brand of “socialized education” is denounced by many libertarians today; for them the rhetoric of equality is easily adapted to the morality of sink-or swim. 

Laissez faire ideology breeds hostility to public schools, public health and all forms of public welfare, including social security, and even the Post Office.  Laissez faire finds its justification in the egalitarian myth that all persons are born on an equal footing.   The lamb and the tiger are (if I may steal William Blake’s metaphors) are created equal, and if the lamb fails to get one up on the tiger, it is simply because she did not put her mind to it. 

Copyright © by Wilson J. Moses

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 1 October 2012




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All created Equal?  a Sinister Doctrine!

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