Below is an essay I wrote for AP English regarding the lie of the beloved American Promise.
25 October 2017:
America was founded on misogyny, racism, and anti-immigrant rhetoric, as established by the Founding Fathers, and America still feeds off of that today. Thomas Jefferson begins the immortal second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence promising that the equality and rights of men are self-evident. However, along with this assertion comes an inherent flaw: Jefferson meant white, American-born men to be the only individuals included in this promise. Therefore, it is fitting to declare that the United States does in fact mirror the ‘ideal’ America prescribed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. The America of today adheres perfectly to the crooked standards of Jefferson’s assertion; two parallel arguments can be made: because Jefferson did not mean to include women in his definition of “men”, they are denied rights and equality, and, because black people and immigrants are denied rights and equality, Jefferson did not mean to include them in his definition of “men”.
One expects Jefferson’s promise in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal” and “endowed...with certain unalienable Rights,” to be applicable to citizens from all walks of life; however, the flaw lies in that Jefferson did not want to include women in his statement’s definition of ‘men’. This flaw is recognized and remedied by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; she argues in “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” that by excluding women from his definition of ‘men’, the rest of Jefferson’s statement is made equally inapplicable to women- there is then no “self-evidence” in equality because the “inalienable rights” described do not apply to women. Stanton begins her argument with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...” (paragraph 2). Cady Stanton models Thomas Jefferson almost down to the last word, except she includes ‘women’ in her statement. Had Jefferson had meant to include women in his promise, Stanton would not have felt the need to actively add ‘women’ to the famous words. There is a lack self-evidence in equality and human rights, that is, they are not made inherent to everyone. Stanton made this point in the 19th century, yet the original intention in her rhetoric is still present today.
Thomas Jefferson meant to convey that white and American-born men were the only individuals included in the definition of “men” in his original promise; a simple piece of evidence to support this is the existing oppression towards immigrants and black people today. Simply being black means that “for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much...blame.” (Hurston). Because she is black, Hurston will be blamed more than her white counterparts for the same action committed. This is a violation of the concept of equality as well as a violation of basic human rights. This violation of rights and equality proves that Jefferson could not have meant to include black people in his definition of “men”; we are living up to Jefferson’s promise- the exclusion of black people. Similarly, in “Two Ways to Belong in America” Mukherjee describes a statement made by her sister, Mira, about the fact that America recently adopted new laws limiting the rights of documented immigrants with: ‘“I feel manipulated and discarded. This is such an unfair way to treat a person who was invited to stay and work here”’ (paragraph 8). American-born individuals, according to Mukherjee’s essay, have substantial rights that immigrants in America do not. However, according to Jefferson, all men are deserved certain rights, so it is clear that in Jefferson’s statement, “all men”, he does not mean to include immigrants.
Oppression, ingrained in the sacred and treasured words of our Founding Fathers, has penetrated the very fabric of our society today. Thomas Jefferson ultimately meant to exclude women, black people, and immigrants from the promise of the opening of his second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence. Because of this purposeful exclusion that is still present today in sexism, racism, and anti-immigrant rhetoric, the America of today meets Jefferson’s intended promise. Upon reflecting on the words of our Founding Fathers as well as on the structure of today’s society in relation to oppression, one might wonder if such exclusion of marginalized peoples is committed due to malice or rather due to never changing, never questioned societal norms regarding minorities.
Here you will find specifically academic pieces, such as essays I have completed for school that are related to the pursuit of justice.