No, this is not about Al Gore – although he would be an excellent example of what I am about to discuss.
Not long ago, I was having a discussion on Facebook with a friend of a friend on the issue of Black Lives Matter, with his argument being that racism against black people is systemic. “It is systemic. If it wasn’t why do blacks have to have their voting right renewed every 25 years if they truly are our equal? What’s the difference between that and them being 3/5ths a person at one time, before that they were ‘cattle’. Until we know what it is like to be them we ought not say anything.”
To be honest, I was a little dumbfounded as to what he was talking about with voting right renewals. “How can that possibly be”, I thought. “I’m sure there was an amendment… or am I thinking of the one that granted women that right? Was there really not an amendment for blacks also? Why didn’t I pay more attention in government class!” Yet, he was so adamant about this point of fact that he stated, “Funny thing is, whenever I bring this present day truth up the debate ceases.”
So I took to Google and quickly confirmed that the 15th Amendment granted African Americans the right to vote (without any kind of renewal). I searched Google again to figure out where his “present day truth” had originated. I soon learned about The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Long story short… when the 15th Amendment passed, Jim Crow laws and other intimidation schemes arose which tried to prevent blacks from voting. The Voting Rights Act gave the federal government the power to ensure that blacks were being allowed to vote. It let them send federal officials to areas where blacks were still being prevented their right. It was intended to give the federal government this power temporarily, so it originally would have expired in 1970, but was extended. It has continued to be extended in 1975, 1982, and 2006 for another 25 years.
My point here is not the history lesson, but the encounter. This man was so certain of such a convincing fact, which had apparently proven his point many times to such a degree that “the debate ceases”, that I wondered what his reaction would be when it was proven to be false. How can anyone respond when they discover an untruth that is so crucial to their argument?
Let’s examine some of the ways people react:
Some people continue to spout the untruth to others, while knowing it to be false. This is plain old fashioned dishonesty. Whereas before, they were simply ignorant for not knowing the truth, but now they are flat out lying.
Some people shrug it off without consequence. When the subject comes up, they continue to take their original stance without their key point and without ever having considered how the lack of this point may have changed the debate. This is a case of being dishonest with oneself. They are lying to themselves by not re-evaluating what it means with the new information.
Some people accept that the new evidence changes things, but instead of re-evaluating what it means, they just avoid the subject altogether. When it comes up in conversation, they shy away. If the issue crosses their mind, they quickly suppress it so that they don’t have to come to terms with what it means. They do this because they WANT to believe what they believed before (or what everyone else believes), and don’t want to realize that deep down they really don’t. This is just as dishonest to oneself as the previous reaction, but a bit more cowardly. Here they are hiding from it.
Some people (unfortunately very few) are honest enough to accept the new evidence and then re-evaluate what they now believe about the subject. This is where we all should be, and where we should strive to be.
How did my Facebook discussion end? I explained to him what I had learned about the Voting Rights Act and provided a link to a Snopes article which explained how the myth got started. I explained the 3/5ths Compromise, pointed out that no one alive today experienced the 3/5ths Compromise, or the “cattle” treatment, and that not even anyone’s grandparents today experienced those disgraces. My point was that he was conflating those who experienced slavery with those who are alive today – two different issues. Unfortunately, he did not reply, so I probably will never know which path he has chosen.
It is important to realize that we cannot control how other people handle inconvenient truths, but we can control ourselves. So let’s make it our goal as conservatives to strive to be as honest with ourselves as we can be. Let’s push ourselves to truly find out what we believe. This isn’t easy. But knowing what you truly believe and testing yourself to find those truths in your heart takes courage. I do it for my children. I do it for the day when one of them comes to me and asks why I believe what I do. By then, I hope that I will have tested myself enough that I’ll have the best answers clearly resolved in my mind for them to consider on their own journeys for truth.