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The 14th Amendment Interpreted Against Its Original Meaning

Could an Originalist interpretation of the 14th Amendment have prevented egregious court decisions? Professor John McGinnis argues that true equality and civil rights for African Americans were intended in the 14th Amendment. In Plessy v. Ferguson and other cases, the Supreme Court chose to ignore the original meaning of the 14th Amendment and thus gave rise to decades of injustice that could have been avoided. https://youtube.com/watch?v=ilmnqupDOKQ


Recognize that many of the greatest failures of the United States happened because the 14th Amendment was not interpreted according to its original meaning. So the promise of equality for African Americans was not realized. And this happened in two ways. One of course is the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. Which argued that, court upheld statute that allowed African Americans to be forced to sit separately on a railroad. And the argument I think is plainly against the meaning of the 14th Amendment. It was supposed to give equal civil rights in the sense, rights to contract. And in this case, an African American wanted to contract for a particular car in the train that whites had the opportunity to contract for and he was forbidden. So that was a violation of his right to equality and so it was a very badly decided case. Perhaps even worse were the decision of the 15th Amendment where the Supreme Court and Congress failed to prevent Southerners from disenfranchising African Americans against the clear requirement that voting rights could not be denied on the basis of skin color. Let's imagine a world in which the Supreme Court had decided Plessy different in which these court and Congress, who of course is obligated to follow the 14th Amendment as well, had followed the original meaning. That would be a world in which the civil rights revolutions would've been very different. Much would've been done actually already by the court. Economic opportunities would've been much more readily available. So the terrible plight of African Americans in much of the early and middle 20th century would've been much ameliorated if we had followed the original meaning of the constitution. So it should remind us that the biggest failure of the 14th Amendment, was the failure of non-Originalism. So it should remind us that non-Originalism does not necessarily have a progressive spin to it. This was a deeply regressive attempt to take away rights that were guaranteed under the 14th Amendment and it could only happen with non-Originalist decisions of the court and non-Originalist decisions of Congress.

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