What did “Free, White And Twenty-One” Mean?
This was a colloquial saying that meant: I can do anything I want because I am free, I am white and I am at least 21 years of age. Of course, the implication was: non-Americans, minors and blacks could not do whatever they wanted.
I AM FREE
Most people in the world live under dictatorships, tyranny and/or Communism/Socialism* even in 2019. They cannot do whatever they want. Only in the United States of America do citizens have inalienable rights. That is, the government cannot legally walk all over us, but the Deep State has certainly been doing a “good” job of it these last few decades.
I AM WHITE
In theory and legally all Americans have the same Constitutional Rights. After President Lincoln freed the slaves, the Nineteenth Amendment made every African-American an equal citizen in 1868.** In practice, all Americans were not treated the same by government, especially in the Southern States run by Democrats. Their enforcement arm, the KKK, saw to it that blacks were kept in their “their place” after the Civil War ended (1865) and clear up to the 1960s. ONE HUNDRED YEARS!
“I AM TWENTY-ONE” WAS LOWERED TO EIGHTEEN
Until a person reached legal age, in theory they could only do this or that if their parents allowed them. From the establishment of the United States of America to 1971,*** a person reached the age of majority only when he/she had their 21st birthday. But, as a practical matter, once a person graduated from high school, left home, was employed, and/or got married, most people & businesses treated him or her like an adult.
THE “FREE, WHITE & 21” SAYING IS SEVERELY OUT OF DATE. IN MOST WAYS, WE ARE THE BETTER FOR IT. BUT, AS OUR RIGHTS ARE STEADILY ERODING, HOW MUCH LONGER CAN WE CALL OURSELVES TRULY FREE?
Diane L. Gruber
*This writer lived in a dictatorship in the 1970s, in between college and grad school. There, people disappeared and their families did not know if they were dead or in the offshore political prison. When the country became a Democracy in 1989, the prisoners were released.
**As a teenager this writer lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, for four months in the very late 1960s. This very naïve Washingtonian still remembers seeing four, not two, restrooms in restaurants and other public places: white men, colored men, white women, colored women. I could not wrap my head around this. After all, urine was urine, right? I realize now that this law had nothing to do with urine. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went through, the signs were painted over, but the four restrooms still remained until the buildings were tore down or remodeled.
Civil Rights Act of 1964’s votes by party: House Dems 63%, House GOP 80%; Senate Dems 69%, Senate GOP 82%
***In 1971 the Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age to eighteen. Quickly thereafter, each state lowered its age of majority to eighteen.