Having visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the second new learning which stayed with me was this…
In 1787, after independence, the three fifths clause of the United States Constitution was enacted. “Three-fifths of the number of slaves in any particular state would be added to the total number of free white persons, including bond servants, but not Indians, to the estimated number of congressmen each state would send to the House of Representatives.”
Effectively each black man or woman was worth three fifths of a white man or woman, when it came to ‘democratic’ representation. It seems shocking; indeed a few people audibly gasped when the video at the museum shared this.
How do you fraction a human being? Why three fifths? And which three fifths?
And I wonder on reflection, do we still do this today? Unconsciously? Do we value certain people more, or less? Is it just that we no longer write it down, make it law?
And do we hide parts of ourselves too? Only present to the world the part(s) we feel comfortable with? Do we show up, not as our whole self, but as the fraction we believe is acceptable to those around us, in our context, in our environment, now at this time?
If you could offer a fraction of yourself and discount the remainder, which fraction would you choose?