Can a columnist have a bad day? Of course. When an associate professor of constitutional law has a bad day in a column about the Constitution, perhaps something else is afoot.

Joseph Reisert’s Sept. 19 column, “That racism exists doesn’t mean US was founded on racist principles,” sets out to make Bernie Sanders look bad.

But isn’t the prof just setting us up for the quiz? The United States not founded on racist principles? How far into the Constitution do we have to go to find the rebuttal? Oh. Article I. Wherein only three-fifths of the slave population may be counted as persons for census purposes. Where are those other two-fifths? Disappeared.

And for the quiz, we’d better know Article IV, ii, which says that “persons” who “escape” from service or labor must be “delivered up” to the state from which they escaped. Who might such “persons” be, do you think?

When Reisert writes that “nothing in [the Constitution] authorizes slavery … or indirectly asserts the superiority of any race or ethnic group to any other,” he was just setting us up. The A students found out: Racism was deep into our founders’ thinking, and it’s right there in ink and parchment.

As for Jefferson, who Reisert tells us was “weak and imperfect” but whose “principles” were good, the A students will ask, “What principle was he living out as he fathered children on a slave he owned and never freed?”

“Not founded on racism,” Reisert says. The professor was just setting us up. Right?

Richard Flanagan, Fairfield


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