This third segment of a 4-part PBS series focuses on the 14th Amendment and clearly reinforces the premise that most Americans don’t know the meaning of the Constitution and that they are for it or against it depending on whether it serves them or not. The amendment, passed and ratified 81 years after the original document, should have clearly abolished all forms of racial, voting, civil, and economic inequality but because of imbedded prejudices, it took separate amendments to allow blacks and women to be able to vote. It took protests and unrest to raise the conscience of the masses and get the Supreme Court to declare the “constitutionality” of civil rights and rights of women to contraception and abortion.
What is so difficult to understand when the 14th Amendment declares any person cannot be deprived of life, liberty, property and equal protection under the law? The amendment became necessary because in spite of having the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the nation had to undergo a bloody civil war to secure the rights already endowed. It also gives Congress the power to enforce the amendment but legislators, because of their own personal prejudices and pressure from groups of constituents, have been slow or unwilling to honor the language and spirit of the Constitution.
The show raises the question of can the nation get too far on Equality or not far enough. It is raised in the context of issues such as affirmative actions, reverse discrimination, and discriminatory laws such as limiting driver license and voting privilege only to those over 18 years of age. The misunderstanding is in the distinction between discrimination and prejudice.
Take two tasty flavors, vanilla and chocolate. When one favors vanilla over chocolate, it is discrimination or making a free choice or preference. But when Mr. White favors vanilla without tasting chocolate and because he despises Mr. Black who profits from chocolate and he does not want Mr. Black to succeed economically, the free choice or discrimination rises to the level of prejudice. Prejudice includes malice and causes harm.
Answer to the question is that equality is a single state and anything over or under this equilibrium is inequality, an abridgment under the 14th Amendment. There is no prejudice in limiting voting and driving privilege to age 18 because everyone at one time in life is either under or over 18 and no harm or malice is associated with such law. In fact, it is a national preference.
Prejudice remains and inequality abounds because of or in spite of beliefs or stations in life. The legal scholar interviewed in a church backdrop explains that disallowing gay marriage is not a violation of the 14th Amendment because of (religious) customs and that the democratic majority is against it. There is a very good reason for the wall of separation between church and state. The Amendment cannot be more clear that liberty and equality is guaranteed for the individual, not for a tyrannical often prejudicial majority.