Mr. President, The Constitution Is Not Racist

55
9932

His Excellency, President George M. Weah
Republic of Liberia

Dear Mr. President,

I want to personally congratulate you on becoming president of our “Land of Glorious Liberty.” It is no doubt you love the country and it seems you have a vision to transform it for the better. Your presidency gives hope, especially to the young people, many of whom are disadvantaged in various ways. Your struggles and successes at home and abroad make you a good role model. I can identify with you to some extent. I was born in a village in Grand Bassa County and grew up in Buzzy Quarters and Capitol Hill in Monrovia. I used to play soccer bare-footed like you did growing up, but you surpassed me. I never made it to any team beyond Capitol Hill. I too have been blessed as a minister. I will keep you and your family in my prayers for good health and prosperity. I really want you to succeed. That is why I am writing this letter to you.

Your inaugural speech on January 22, 2018 was great. You addressed some of the core issues the country faces. Just prior to the speech, you raised your hand before God and the people and solemnly swore to “Uphold and Defend” the constitution of the Republic of Liberia. Then within few days, on January 29th, in your annual message at the Capital you condemned the same constitution you promised to “Uphold and Defend.” You labeled it as RACIST all because of a clause that allows citizenship to people of Negro descent only. It is that early departure from the oath you took that prompted the writing of this letter. I thought you went too far, Mr. President. Here are my reasons:

RACISM has everything to do with hatred and degradation of another human being primarily because of the color of his or her skin. Its aim is to dehumanize and degrade another race on the assumption that they are not real human beings. In the Americas black people were called the inferior race, hapless, and wretched creatures. It was that belief that got black people into slavery in the Americas for centuries.

Apartheid South Africa was a recent example of “RACISM” in Africa. There white people thought themselves to be superior and black people inferior. A black man was not allowed to sit at the same table where a white man sat. Blacks were forced to drink from dirty fountains while white people drink from clean fountains. White people trained their children to shoot black people as targets in the streets. Black lives did not matter at all and no laws protected them—all because of their skin color. They were slaves in their own country. That is RACISM, to say the least.

So, Mr. President, when did Liberian people ever come close to treating non-Negros like that? When did a Liberian man or woman refuse to shake a white man’s hand because of the color of his skin. To the contrary, don’t we respect white people more in Libera? Look around and compare where non-Negros live and where Liberian people live—who is getting the best part of the country?  Aren’t we, as a nation most hospitable to foreigners than to our own? Don’t they currently enjoy the best part of our economy?

In this modern world, “RACISM” is a curse that undermines any civil institution. Therefore, by labeling the constitution RACIST you undermined the very principle for which the nation was established. Here’s why:

The Necessity of the Negro-Only clause

The “Negro-only” clause was placed in the constitution not primarily to serve a political or economic function; neither was it meant to show that Negros are superior and other people are inferior. The clause was meant to be a monument that speaks to the root of Negro history that brought Liberia into existence. Prior to 1847, Negro men and women were violently removed from Africa to serve as beasts of burden in the fields and plantations of white people in the Americas. With the help of certain white philanthropists some Negros got freed but were denied opportunity for growth and success in the Americas. A statement attributed to Lott Carey makes the point:

“We are Africans, and in the United States, however meritorious our conduct, or respectable our character, we cannot receive the credit due to either. Therefore, we wish to dwell in a country where we shall be estimated by our merit, and not by our complexion.”

Therefore, the American Colonization Society was formed to take free black people away from America back to Africa.

The detractors argued that Negros are inferior humans and are not capable of providing good governance to manage a wholesome and thriving society. Some non-Negros still hold that view today. They predicted that a Negro nation (Liberia) will eventually fail and bow to non-Negros. Since that time the detractors continue to do everything to undermine the prosperity of the republic.

Those who supported the repatriation to Africa argued that the Negros will prove to the world that they can provide good governance and will create a wholesome and functioning society. Therefore, while the rest of Africa struggled under the yoke of colonialism, Liberia was founded as an experiment to showcase that the Negro can create and maintain a nation. Our forebears and framers of the constitution prayed for their goal to be realized and for the nation to succeed. They spent not only their sweat, but their blood on that belief.

Therefore the “Negro only” clause was placed in the constitution as a philosophy of faith, hope and belief in the resilience of black people. It was a strategy to protect that belief and the people. It was that dream that inspired our founders to fight for the freedom and independence of other African nations.

Therefore, when we repeal that clause under the guise of attracting non-Negros to help develop and strengthen our nation, we would have proven the detractions right. We will send the message that we have failed to manage the affairs of the state (Your administration will be saying to the watching world that you are not able to withstand the tests of time, to walk where your predecessors walked, and to protect the integrity of Negro history). We will affirm to our own shame that the Negro race does not have the know-how to manage a functioning society. Our ancestors will scream in their graves with shame and regrets that their struggles were in vain. Their souls would cry out, “It would have been better if we had remained in slavery,” all because the Negro republic has failed.

Joseph Jenkins Roberts, our first president, in his first inaugural address in 1847 reflected on that very subject and said if the state should thus fail, then “We should return to slavery, hug our chains, and become by-word and reproach among nations” because every belief and faith in the Negro race to lead a prosperous society would have been destroyed. All of that make the “Negro-only” clause to be necessary now as it was then.

Liberia Is A Unique Case

The American Colonization Society in its annual board meeting in January 1889 observed that Liberia “stands in interesting contrast to every other agency of Africa’s upbuilding.”

Most Black African countries that have non-Negro citizens were once colonial properties. We were not. The citizenship of white people in those countries represents the shadows of their once white colonial masters. Our founders had white masters as well, but not in Liberia. Though we, like other nations, rely on international partnership for growth and development, we should not do so at the expense of our historical and constitutional integrity.

You Are Not the First President to Attack the Constitution

Arthur Barclay, 15th president of Liberia

You are not the first president to attack those ideals in the constitution. In 1904 President Arthur Barclay who originated from the West Indies was pressed with economic issues and desired to seek aids from Great Britain. He condemned the “Negro-Only” philosophy as “Selfish” and argued that the inclusion of non-Negros into government will strengthen the independence and development of Liberia.

In 1907, the president pushed to alter the constitution to allow non-Negros to serve in his government. The legislature approved his suggestions in 1908 and the Liberian Frontier Force was created (that evolved as Armed Forces of Liberia). The president was set to implement his reform. He appointed an English man, Major R. Mackay Cadell as the first commander of the Frontier Force. Major Cadell was assisted by British officers and Sierra Leoneans. The president went further and put Liberia’s custom services under the directorship of British officers. The British Consul accredited to Liberia at that time was Braithwaite Wallis.

Charles Braithwaite Wallis (right), British Consul-General to Liberia, 1909
(Photo: Forbes, Edgar Allen, 1910)

By 1909 Cadell and Wallis had engineered a clandestine operation that brought Liberia very close to losing her independence and sovereignty to become a British Colony. Thank goodness for French and American operations in Liberia at the time that saved the day. Gordon Haliburton, quoting another writer, Mr. R. L. Buell (from American sources) said this about Major Cadell:

“That a munity of the Frontier Force took place on 1 February 1909, following the arrival of a British gunboat on 31 January. . . He plainly intimates that this mutiny was intended to overthrow the Liberian Government and lead to the proclamation of a British Protectorate.”

The incident was referred to as the “Cadell Incident” in Liberian history. There is no evidence the British government authorized or endorsed the action of the two British officers.

A highly respected African intellectual, Edward Wilmot Blyden (Aug. 3, 1832–Feb. 7, 1912) was the father of Pan-Africanism. (Courtesy: Atlantablackstar.com)

President Barclay was embarrassed by the crisis and blamed it on Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden and the Kru and Grebo people because they presented the strongest opposition against his policies. Notwithstanding, the president quietly ordered all British and non-Negros to withdraw from the Liberian government and leave the country. His orders were carried out.

President William V. S. Tubman came close to, though not exactly, a similar fate. His unfavorable land sale and business deals with the American con businessman Landsdell K. Christie drew sharp resentment from within and without his government. The president was accused of “selling the country” to foreigners. He fought back and condemned the “Negro-only” policy as a “narrow and selfish and strangulating policy.” But eventually he succumbed and renegotiated his contract with Christie. In 1955 the president cleverly campaigned on his “Open Door Policy” that would attract foreign businesses without infringing on the constitution.

American businessman Lansdell K. Christie of the Liberia Mining Company (Bomi Hills), reads out his speech at the dedication of the Antoinette Tubman Railroad Bridge (Photo: Leon M. Jordan, 1952)

You Can Make It

If non-Negros in and outside Liberia argue that they will not support your development initiatives unless you make them citizens, then they are selfish and have ulterior motives. They are taking your goodwill for granted and leading you to failure. People can invest in countries where they are not citizens. The solution to our problems is good governance, empowerment of citizens, etc. The Liberian people have faith in you and voted for you, believing you can accomplish those tasks. You can make it Mr. President. There is no need to deconstruct the constitution and destroy its historical significance.

Your Legacy?

We already have more complications that will take time to resolve, thus we cannot afford to add another one to it. Already in our own country we are poorer and they (non-Negros) are richer. We have lots of unresolved land cases. What will happen when wealthy non-Negros become citizens, purchase land, and maneuver their way into government? When that happens, our people will become poorer and homeless which will spark another major crisis down that road.  Mr. President, you do not want that to be your legacy.

Respectfully yours,

Rev. Dr. Samuel E. Vansiea

Dr. Samuel E. Vansiea has been a minister for over 30 years. He graduated from the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary, CWA Junior College, Mano River Union Telecommunications Institute in Sierra Leone, and St. Patrick’s High School in Monrovia. He earned his graduate and post graduate degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and Bethel University in Minnesota USA. He was Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church on Tubman Boulevard, Monrovia. He is currently Senior Pastor of Joy World Universal Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He is married and has four children. Email: [email protected]

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55 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Doc, well written and explained open letter here.Hope the president and his advisers will prayerfully read and consider this. Thanks for the historical informations.

  2. Rev Vansiea, please allow me to disagree with you. There was a time in our nation when some settlers denied citizenship to a large number of our people. I’m sure those settlers had their reasons, however stupid and discriminatory me might have viewed them. By your logic, those “settlers” could have been justified in keeping that discriminatory position; after all, they felt that the founding of “Liberia” was the work of the ACS and the returnees, not those human beings they met here. If denying citizenship to persons based on the color of their skin is not discrimination, not racism, then, we truly need to have a wholesome enlightenment in this nation.

    • Moses, I am surprised you are not touched by this historical research made by one of our own man of God in the diaspora. He clearly break down the reason for this clause in our constitution and he clearly defined racism. Read it again. There was a time in our lives that some of us who grew up in polygamous families in Liberia were looked down upon and were told that we would have amounted to nothing. But I tell you today, I am somebody living in the US. I proved my distractors wrong. It is this part of Rev. Vansiea article that touches me most because I always want to prove people wrong from an underdog perspective. In simple English, non-negroes have always had a notion that black people cannot lead a successful government or lead themselves into an atmosphere of prosperity for development. I don’t think so. If we give in, it will just prove their(non-negroes) point of view or notion. Does this mean anything to you? Let the struggle continues.
      Thank you

    • Mr. Mollie no Liberian can deny the fact that there has been inequality and injustice amongst Liberians in our past and recent history but RACISM?
      Hardly.
      If President Weah wants to open Liberian citizenship to all race, he must first level the playing field so that the opportunities are equal for all.
      Rev., Dr. Vansiea has very carefully showed how uneven and therefore unleveled the current playing field is.

      I urge President West to start by developing and establishing policies that will have such end results
      This takes time. No need to rush.

      • Brother Weeks, my overall position to the Rev. is straightforward: find any discriminatory or racist position now or in the past, and the proponent will give u justification for his or her action. The justification, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the discriminatory position is right. During the slavery years in the American south, why certain slave-owners supported separate bathrooms, restaurants for whites and blacks, and supported other racist/discriminatory positions against blacks, those same slave-owners had no problem sleeping with black women and fathering children by them. This generation of Liberians shouldn’t allow themselves to be defined by the actions of others. If this this negro clause in our constitution is not racist, it certainly falls within the definition of discrimination. On a personal note, it disappoints me whenever a religious leader supports this negro clause position in our constitution; a clause that clearly denies citizenship to other human beings based solely on the color of their skin. Would Jesus support such an awful position? Black, White, Brown, or Yellow, aren’t we are all the children of God?

  3. Doc, you’ve made this day a reading day for me. I will not rest to read this historic article of yours and its adequate research work done. My late Father used to saying that: “if you can not hear, you will feel it”. Thanks a million, Sir for the historical analysis and conclusion. Please read, listen and take precautions because, it is very early to enter into such a perculiar discussion, Mr. President. We have priorities amongst priorities.

  4. Doc, great piece of historical document, those Liberians who are in Gov’t. and backing this policy should read this and have a sober reflection.Even the so-called journalists, who always appeared on the radio talked shows, should also read and educate their listeners and not feed “garbage” to our people in the name of information and education.

    Thanks

  5. It is a blessing to rise up so early on the morning and read this profound epistle to our President George Weah. It is my prayer that it will be read for the great masterpiece that it is and provide enlightenment and guidance to all our people. Thank you my dear brother for a well written editorial. I share your sentiments completely.

  6. Fascinating article,I thank the Doc on this issue.I think what he has written has a very good point to hold fast to because the only people to develop Africa are Africans themselves , Europeans, Americans and others will not do it because these people have their own motive which they have been serving over the years. These non negros captured our leaders with little or nothing,whereby forming a collusion with our own people that we selected to serve in our names and fail to serve our interest.What is more pivotal is the people on the ground aren’t been empower,what happens if the new citizens come and bribe all these nasty politicians what becomes of us the people?We have to think on this seriously before making any decision.

  7. Well done Rev. Vansiea. I am hoping and praying the our Liberian Legislatures and Leaders will read this open letter, do their own research, understand why the “Negro-Only clause” was put into our constitution, and at the end of the day make the right decision. One quote that I remember daily is …. “if I don’t know where I’m coming from, I will never know where I am going.”

    Thanks for reminding us about our history.

  8. This letter is addressed to the President of The Republic of Liberia.
    I suggest that his Press Secretary or Chief of Staff prints out two copies of this letter and then,
    1- Read the letter to the President (do not give it to him and walk away)
    2- Give the president one copy and take one copy home for your own education

    Finally, a copy of this letter should be read on the floors of both chambers of the Capitol Building for Senators and Representatives.
    And, last but not least; every Print Media, Talk Show, and News outlet should publish and discuss this letter for the public good.
    The least thing to do with this letter is for the Ministry of Education to replace the John Kezel lie, lie story with this factual History of the Republic of Liberia.
    Amen..!!!

    • Thanks very much man of God. I just left your class room of Liberian history that I never read in school. I love history. Good presentation. I will forward your work to others and school teachers in River Gee.

      I am not a supporter of George Weah’s view, while his right to free expression is protected.

      Kirkpatrick Weah
      Liberian Human Rights Organization
      Minnesota, USA / [email protected]

  9. Greetings:
    I must also commend the author of this piece. To many times due to a lack of deeper understanding, some of our readers fail to grasp the essence of what is being said. Therein lies our weakness as a people. We hear some talk about re-writing Liberian history. It is not the re-writing of Liberian history, because you cannot re-write history. But you can get a better view – a different perspective of Liberia’s past and see it in a different light. A more uplifting and brighter light than what some of us have been led to believe. For a truth the more we look to the faults of the past, the more fault we bring about in our presence. It is far greater to look for the good from the past so that we might see better days in our future. Kind Regards

    • the 13th Report of the ACS clarified, despite a philanthropic and religious face, the organization was formed for the sole intent “that the slaves not be restored to liberty except for transportation; and that, as the free colored people never can mingle with the whites, the only practicable way of doing them good, is to remove them from their own country to the distant land of their forefathers.”

      A cover of one of the annual reports of the American Colonization Society.
      A cover of one of the annual reports of the American Colonization Society.

      The report continues, “the present number of this unfortunate, degraded, and anomalous class of inhabitants cannot be much short of half a million, and the number is fast increasing. They are, emphatically, a mildew upon our fields, a scourge to our backs, and a stain upon our escutcheon. To remove them, is mercy to ourselves, and justice.” Charles Fenton Mercer of Virginia, one of the ACS founders, favored removal of the freed blacks because they were “every day polluting and corrupting public morals” and furthermore “more than half the freed blacks females were prostitutes and half of the males rogues.”

  10. Thank you sir,reading this piece has greatly improved my knowledge and understanding of the issue at hand.It is my prayer and hope that others reading this will understand as well.

  11. So it will awesomely welcome if non black nations exclude citizenships to blacks, right???? Laughable………… You guys are looking at the glass differently.

  12. This perspective is healthy as well as the debate. I must confess the piece gives me another view in looking at the “Negro-Only” (Blacks Only) clause; however, more research needs to be done to see if there exists other point of views that might add to the necessities of this debate. While we are in this mind set and talking about land, I believe the land debate should be more about good governance and how we can enhance our impoverished society. Since 1822 we have been in a conversation about land conflict that is still unresolved and so to add another layer will be a complicated issue to say the least. This issue has the potential to set us back, where we may never recover. The land issue with regards to ownership by Non-Negro (Non-Black) is an understatement to indicate that it is a valid point; however, I think we overlooked a real pressing and current situation that is rendering the marginalization of our meaningful existence and that is, the issue of land ownership by “Negros Only”. In the absence of good governance and a strong, effective and implemented Liberianization policy, the ownership of land by Negros (Blacks) only who are not Liberians is moot. The issue here is more economic (THE POWER OF MONEY). Example, I live in an area of Liberia known as Caldwell. If you go to Caldwell you will observe that there is a whole community of Negros (Blacks) that are not Liberian citizens, but have and are using the power of money to buy land from Liberians at cost that triples the value of the land, that Liberians are refusing to sell to their own Liberians at prices that are reasonable and affordable. Caldwell is not unique here, as this can be observed in many communities in Liberia. The net result is the loss of those lands from the perceived owners. Though some of those purchases are questionable as to who the rightful owners are, the purchaser still proceeds with the purchase, with the attitude that whatever it cost they will pay for it. At times even if it means that they will rebuy the land and whatsoever is on it. If it has to end up in court, they are willing to bribe their way through. What I am presenting here as a food for thought, “Money”, has become the only instrument that is used aggressively to the disadvantage of our impoverished society, where over 70% live on less than $2 a day. What will we (Liberians) have after that money is spent? The money is gone and so is the land. Most often the case is that it is difficult to reinvest that money for positive economic impact, when the prevailing issues we have are the bread and butter issue. Impoverished? Yes we are, but by design, (The Absence of Good Governance). So what are our claims and benefits as citizens? The intangible? If this is unfolding at an alarming rate in such community, I can only imagine what will happen to Liberians by communities that are a million time more financially potent than that of the other Negro non Liberian communities. This is a herculean task to say the very least. Whatever happens we must seek God’s genuine divine intervention, a comprehensive and wisdom guided approach at minimum or risk losing our meaningful existence. Liberians MUST factor meaningfully in any equation. My thanks and depths of appreciation to Rev. Dr. Samuel E. Vansiea for such enlightenment and perspective.

  13. In the court of public opinion, everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. Rev. Vansiea has stated some of his opinions. His theory was supported strongly. But, with all due respect and in many ways, I strongly disagree with the Reverend’s positions.

    Remember, in our demoncracy, everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. The opinions are protected by the constitution.
    If the president, Mr. Weah feels strongly that the “non-blacks” clause that’s written in our constitution needs to be modernized or abrogated because it is somehow racist, he is right. That’s how he feels! Doesn’t he have a right to state his opinion? In fact, I agree with Weah without any reservations. As the debate heats up as to whether she or he is wrong or right, all we can do is to learn how to agree to disagree. I hope that’s right.

    The constitution really states that non-blacks are ineligible to become citizens. That is a racist statement. The clause needs to be modernized or abrogated to compote with the changing times in Liberia.

    In the US, black codes were introduced as a way of disparaging black people. In addition to black codes, jim crow laws came into existence. In fact, jim crow was an extension of black codes. In all, black people were badly misused. As blacks suffered all forms of negative stereotypes, the constitution of the US was very, very silent. As time went on, there were some who believed that black Americans were equal to one-third of a white human being. Well, what happened years and years later? Although some whites did not give a hoot, a good number of fair-minded whites felt that non racist amendments to the US constitution were morally justified. So, good white people sat around the table and made changes to the US constitution to cover all people irrespective of skin color. Similarly in Liberia, amending the constitution is what Weah is all about. Rev. Vansiea and others may have problems with that. That’s too bad!

    Rev. Vansiea mentions the fact that whites who live in Liberia are not bothered or descriminated against neither do they live in deplorable areas. True. However, that particular issue has nothing to do with racism. There are well-educated Liberians who live in up-to-date living quarters. I hope the Reverend is proud of those Liberians. The whites who reside in Liberia cannot be granted citizenship because of the color of their skin. The constitution of Liberia explicitly states that non-blacks are ineligible to naturalize. That is 100% racist!

    How is that not racist?
    In the first place, native Grain Coast dwellers were descriminated against because “the love of liberty did not take them there”. In conclusion, the Liberian constitution was orinally discriminatory against its own fellow blacks. With such prejudice, racism started when the constitution of our country went into print!

    • You are 100% correct and I not only agree with you but strongly believe to denied one paternity on the basis color is not only racist but devilish. Any human being who is afraid to compete or strive to dominate is among his peers is coward.

  14. EBOLA VACCINS? Just don’t understand the contant advertizement of New preventiv ebola vaccins in Liberia or Sirrea Leon. Has the New govt ever found out the cause of the ebola virus that killed thousands of Our Citizens in the first Place. This is so sad for poor iliterate liberians who continue to be misused as Research Rabbits by American scientist
    Ebola did not start i Liberia in 2014 as claimed. Ebola has been a Research Project in the USA since the 1980s.
    Dont understand just why this govt sohould allow this Experiment to keep going on in the Coutry. Are we so helpless to say no to these vaccins and continuos Experiments in Liberia.

    I will disencourage anyone Reading this article to prevent themselv and their families from taking these vaccins. Remmber signing this document is like signing Your own Death warrant. They will not take any resposibility for the outcome

  15. If you did not die from the ebola Experiment 3 years ago, please keep Your Health as it is, Remember even doctors are not doing the vaccins. They are planing a New experiment again. Signing the contract is like signing Your Death warrant. Ask Yourselv why should i sign this contract if this is in my interest. ?
    Because of Our iressponsible govt and Health authorities, american researchers will continue to Experiment With human life in Liberia just as they do With animals.
    You know they can’t try that shit in the Arab world because they will respond by taking it back to USA.
    They can only continue to do that shit in poor, weak, helpless and ignorant countries like Liberia , Sirrea Leon, Guinea, etc. Please protect youselv People.

  16. Bravo, Angeline! There is no way to beat around the trees. A spade is a spade.

    Weah did not authoritatively call for the non-blacks clause to be singed. He did what is constitutionally correct. Weah urged the legislative branch of government to look into ways in which an accomodation could be reached. The legislators make laws in our system of government. The judiciary branch of government interprets the laws. Weah’s responsibility in the executive branch, is to enforce the laws.
    Weah seems to be up to a good start. If he continues in that path, every Liberian wins. It’s my hope that the Reverend will see why I am in complete disagreement with him. If he desires an open debate, I will be prepared to set the record straight. For the record, I respect the Reverend 100%! He is a man of God. Like him, my daddy was a Pentecostal pastor. But, I disagree with him. I don’t think that God will yank me for disagreeing with him.

  17. The ACS wanted to get rid of blacks so you better stop calling them good people. Do your homework.
    “s the 13th Report of the ACS clarified, despite a philanthropic and religious face, the organization was formed for the sole intent “that the slaves not be restored to liberty except for transportation; and that, as the free colored people never can mingle with the whites, the only practicable way of doing them good, is to remove them from their own country to the distant land of their forefathers.”

    A cover of one of the annual reports of the American Colonization Society.
    A cover of one of the annual reports of the American Colonization Society.

    The report continues, “the present number of this unfortunate, degraded, and anomalous class of inhabitants cannot be much short of half a million, and the number is fast increasing. They are, emphatically, a mildew upon our fields, a scourge to our backs, and a stain upon our escutcheon. To remove them, is mercy to ourselves, and justice.” Charles Fenton Mercer of Virginia, one of the ACS founders, favored removal of the freed blacks because they were “every day polluting and corrupting public morals” and furthermore “more than half the freed blacks females were prostitutes and half of the males rogues.”

  18. Dr Vansiea:
    I would like to first of all thank you very much for your commentary to president George Weah. It is very thoroughly well researched and well written and significantly contributes to the discussion about the repeal of Article 27 (b) and Article 22 (a) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. For those of you who may not be familiar with the specifics of these two articles, Article 27 (b) states “In order to preserve, foster, and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values, and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberian.” Article 27 (a) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution states that “Every person shall have the right to own property alone or in association with others, provided that only Liberian citizens shall have the right to own real property within the Republic.” With the exceptions provided in Article 22 (c and d), the gist of Article 27 (b) and Article 22 (a) is that only Negroes (or descendants of Negroes) can become Liberian citizens and only citizens (who can only be Negroes and/or their descendants) can own real property in Liberia.
    I strongly and completely agree with president Weah’s request to have the clauses in these two articles repealed through an amendment of the Liberian Constitution, primarily because they are racist! As such, I take a position that is clearly opposite to yours. I feel strongly that the exclusion of people from such fundamental rights as acquiring citizenship and ownership of real property simply because of their race is, I am afraid, racist.
    You are quite right sir that “racism has everything to do with hatred and degradation of any other human being primarily because of the color of his or her skin” and all of the other examples that you provide in your commentary. But, subtle forms of racism known variously as laissez-faire racism, aversive racism, or racism lite is still racism. And the racism embodied in those two clauses is open, naked, blatant racism. Furthermore, I do not think that president Weah condemned or labelled the entire Liberian Constitution as racist, as you have noted; only the clauses in Article 27 (b) and Article 22 (a).
    Your reason for maintaining the “Only Negro” clause in the Liberian Constitution as a “philosophy of faith, hope and belief in the resilience of black people” clearly leaves much to be desired. After nearly 171 years of independence, we have proven our resilience. And this hope and belief in the resilience of black people, which has existed for a little over 170 years, will not be diminished by opening our doors to Liberian citizenship and the ownership of real property to Non Negroes.
    The 1986 Liberian Constitution’s rationale for maintaining the racially exclusively clause: “… to preserve, foster, and maintain the positive Liberian culture…” is hopelessly illogical. After all, culture has very little or nothing to do with race per se and a whole lot to do with ethnicity. Any member of any race or ethnicity can learn and practice the “positive” Liberian culture. The fact that many Lebanese traders in Bong County can speak fluent Kpelle can attest to this fact. And, as is common knowledge, many Negro Liberians speak only English!! Moreover, much of the “positive” Liberian culture has its origin in the cultures of Non Negroes. Take for examples, the national language – English, the two major religions – Christianity and Islam, the national sport – soccer, the most important symbol – the flag, the national dance (for the elites at least) – quadrille, the very name of the country – Liberia, its capital city – Monrovia, etc, all, directly or indirectly, have Non Negro origins.
    The greater poverty of Liberians relative to Non Negroes in the country, which you note at the end of your commentary, is largely the result of poor governance – massive corruption, ethnic/gender inequality, nepotism, exorbitantly high salaries of government officials, etc. All of these maladies in a small country endowed with tremendous natural resources. I think that it is about time that we revoke these racist clauses from our Constitution, not simply because it will bring investment into the country; but because it is the morally right and honorable thing to do. We here in the U.S.A enjoy these fundamental rights – acquisition of U.S. citizenship and ownership of real property – in this and other predominantly white countries. Is the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you — still relevant today? I sincerely think so. I thank you all for your active participation in this discussion.
    Konia T. Kollehlon

  19. If a ‘white’ man is married to a Kpelle woman, and they have children, grand-children, great-grandchildren, etc. i.e. children whom happen to also interbreed with other ‘white’ people, if the great great great great grandson / granddaughter of that Kpelle woman happens (through interbreeding with white people) to then be the same colour as a piece of white paper, are they not still of ‘negro descent’… and, if not, at what point did they stop being so and by what method would their ‘negro-ness’ be determined? E.g. would it be based upon them having (or not having) certain physical attributes (such as the colour of their skin and whatnot), or would it be based upon their genetics / DNA, or what precisely would the diagnosis of their ‘negro-ness’ be based upon?

    By rights, and by DNA, that white coloured / white looking great great great great grandson / granddaughter of that Kpelle woman is still very definitely of ‘negro descent’ (they’ll have within them some of the DNA of their great great great great grandmother) and therein they are – according to the Liberian Constitution – entitled to Liberian citizenship and to purchase & own land in Liberia.

  20. Excellent historical perspective Reverend Dr. Vansiea. For those who are in favor of granting citizenship to people of non-negro descent, this perspective could form the basic for your argument. This said, the Reverend perspective brings to the fore one of the fundamental problems inherent in how the Liberian story is told. And it is what historians called “anachronism” -using our current day realities as a litmus test to judge the actions of people in the past. To really understand the actions taken by out forebears during the formative years of the nation-state, and the accompanying decisions in their attempt to exert the authority of the state, one will have to step into their shoes, by seeing the world through their eyes, and as far as possible judging it by their standard. We cannot judge their actions or inactions using our current modern standard, because each generation has its own fears, challenges, aspirations, values and concerns. For instance, the usage of brute force, intimidation, marginalization other extra-judicial means (during the formative years of the Republic) to force compliance to the authority of the state cannot be judged using the same modern standard of what constitute human right abuses. To this, Dr. Vansiea’s perspective is very instructive. This said, all of the historical circumstances, conditions and events alluded to that compelled the founding fathers to inject the “only negro” clause in the 1847 constitution are very much alive today, albeit in a new form and fashion. As the Prelate puts it succinctly, the “non-negro” clause is simply a philosophy of faith aimed at debunking the pervasive Eurocentric mentality (that still exist today) that the Black man is incapable of self-rule, except through the redeeming patronage and intervention of the White man. In light of this mindset, to removed this inviolable clause that gives Liberia (howbeit her imperfections and challenges) a special place in the history of the black race, would be sacrilegious and self-hating. Towards this end, I strongly agree in light of the reasons given by the learned Theologian that this is not the time to grant citizenship to people of non-negro descent.

    • Thanks Rev.
      You have shown us the essence of one being educated.
      This is what our parents expect from us after our academic struggle.” The ability to judge between past and present situations and decide for the future “.
      To a stronger extend, I have disagreed with the president when he referred to the law of the land as” RACISM “. That night I have a sleepless night, wondering what this government has for our country future in the midst of the trust Liberians have the president.
      Your resourceful research has built up my argument which has not been as strong as yours.
      Bravos! You are indeed a success to this nation. Please, don’t regret to feed us with the necessary information to reject the president racist argument.
      We at home will not sit to allow the president argument become a reality.
      The indigenous are already struggling to avoid the so-called Congo man dominant in our country.
      Imagine what happens to the natives in the midst of the so-called Congo man and additional races.

  21. This is my take on the (non-negro clause):

    First thing first

    The Liberian nation is 170 years old and remains one of the poorest countries on this planet. Liberia is a mineral rich nation but undeveloped why? It is the System.

    Dismantle the System

    Liberia as a nation is undeveloped and its people continued to swim in the poor of extreme poverty. The reason is simple;The System. Have you ever asked yourselves why government officials monthly salaries are disproportional to that of ordinary everyday government employees ? It is because of the system that past regimes designed which heavily benefited their families and close confidants. Today in Liberia, a senator monthly salary is approximately $20,000 USD; a representative monthly salary is around $15,000 USD. Not forgetting gas coupons, luxurious cars, phone cards plus other hidden benefits. In Liberia today, a cabinet minister monthly salary is close to if not more than $10,000 USD.
    The point I’m making is that past regimes designed this System such that the so-called elite or top government officials divided the country resources amongst themselves, there by leaving the country in such a terrible state. About 75% of the country budget goes towards salaries and benefits. At the end of the day , no money is left for development. The System.
    It was against this back ground that the first republic was dethroned in the 1980 coup. Samuel Doe and his PRC members assissinted President Tolbert and his cabinet ministers for honoring this corrupt system. The system left the Liberian nation with no Road networks, no electricity, no clean drinking water, no health care and facilities, no education and trainings for the poor, no jobs, nepotism was the order of the day etc etc. The corrupt system.

    The 1980 coup introduced Doe and comrades to the Liberian political stage, subsequently to the Executive. As time went by, Doe and his cabinet ministers got a taste of “ The System.” They too began to enjoy and benefit from this corrupt system. They had the opportunity to reverse the system. But they refused. Why? They saw the light of corruption. They discovered what was behind the system. No check and balance. They were not answerable to anyone like their predecessors. Funny huh. Don’t forget Doe had just assissinated more than 10 of Tolbert’s cabinet officials for this very corrupt behaviors. Dust has not even settled, the new group is now even more corrupt than the last government. Doe could not afford to pay government employees. Why? You know why. They looted everything, bought expensive cars for they and their concubines. They bought or built mansions for themselves. They started traveling abroad in their number for weekends and vacation. Things went from bad to worst. Every corner in and around Monrovia was stuck piled of dirt. Monrovia City Cooperation broke down due to the lack of finance. Everything was a total disaster. THE SYSTEM.
    Doe didn’t dismantle or reverse the system. It benefited them massively.

    Came Charles Taylor and his 1989 Revolution. At the end of the first civil war, Charles Taylor won a free and fair election. He too like all his predecessors, refused to change the system. They too benefited heavily. Once more civil war broke out because the organizers of the war too, like the rest that came before them, felt denied what belongs to them. The country resources. They too felt the System was not fair to them. That lead to Taylor going into exile. An interim government was given a two year mandate. That too was worst than all the past regimes combined.
    Then came Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former world bank executive and one time United Nation assistant Secretary General for Africans affair. Her ascendency to the presidency gave so many Liberians so much hope. It was not to long, they saw the return of corruption in capital letters ( Lib voice). Ellen’s twelve years reign was a disaster. Corruption was the order of the day. She too refused to dismantle the system. Why because the system benefited them.

    This identical system is well and alive today. If you think I’m lying, take a look at government payrolls. Take a look at Capital building payrolls.

    My message to President Weah

    Dismantle the system first. Kill this system first and return the country’s resources to the country and its people. After a successful completion of that tax, we can sit and negotiate the non-negro clause that was inserted within our constitution.

    First thing first Mr. president.

  22. Excellent historical perspective Reverend Dr. Vansiea! For those who are in favor of granting citizenship to people of non-negro descent, this perspective could form the basis for your argument. This said, the Reverend perspective brings to the fore one of the fundamental problems inherent in how the Liberian story is told. And it is what historians called “anachronism” -using our current day realities as a litmus test to judge the actions of people in the past. To really understand the actions taken by our forebears during the formative years of the nation-state, and the accompanying decisions in their attempt to exert the authority of the state, one will have to step into their shoes, by seeing the world through their eyes, and as far as possible judging it by their standard. We cannot judge their actions or inactions using our current modern standard, because each generation has its own fears, challenges, aspirations, values and concerns. For instance, the usage of brute force, intimidation, marginalization other extra-judicial means (during the formative years of the Republic) to force compliance to the authority of the state cannot be judged using the same modern standard of what constitute human right abuses. To this, Dr. Vansiea’s perspective is very instructive. This said, all of the historical circumstances, conditions and events alluded to that compelled the founding fathers to inject the “only negro” clause in the 1847 constitution are very much alive today, albeit in a new form and fashion. As the Prelate puts it succinctly, the “non-negro” clause is simply a philosophy of faith aimed at debunking the pervasive Eurocentric mentality (that still exists today) that the Black man is incapable of self-rule, except through the redeeming patronage and intervention of the White man. In light of this mindset, to remove this inviolable clause that gives Liberia (howbeit her imperfections and challenges) a special place in the history of the black race, would be sacrilegious and self-hating. Towards this end, I strongly agree in light of the reasons given by the learned Theologian that this is not the time to grant citizenship to people of non-negro descent.

  23. Thank you sir for the historical context on Liberia and the *Negro only* Claus. This is indeed one of the best writing I’ve seen on Liberia in a very long time. I only hope that the president read your letter with an open mind and consider our history before going down this path.

  24. The writers of Liberia’s constitution were without doubt xenophobic and that’s why they declared that non-blacks would be ineligible to become citizens of Liberia. I do understand why they felt that way. During the 1800s, enslavement of human beings was a top commodity. Also, because the forefathers of the settlers had been enslaved, there was fear that the Europeans would infiltrate or use force to destabilize a new all black nation.

    Reverend Vanseia and his supporters refuse to accept the fact that racism occurred when the writers of the constitution unequivocally stated that non-blacks were ineligible to become citizens of Liberia. But, while the Vanseia group refuse to accept this fact, they are also unwilling to let us know why such a language was written in the constitution.

    Let’s consider a hypothetical:
    There are two towns, namely. Bozotown and Cocotown. Bozotown is an all white town and Cocotown is an all black town. In Bozotown, the whites declare on billboards that blacks are not allowed. Like them, the blacks in Cocotown have similar written messages on their billboards and all over town.
    Question:
    Which of these two groups of people are engaged in racism? Or, which one of them is not being racist? Is it racist if white people forbid black people from entering their town? Or is it not racist when black people declare that whites should not enter their town?

    It seems that the Vanseia people and the Rev. himself feel that because the language of ineligibility of non-blacks to become citizens of Liberia was drafted by freed black people, so therefore racism was not intended. Well, if racism was not intended by the freed slaves, why did they forbid non-blacks to be ineligible to become citizens of Liberia? Lastly, if racism wasn’t intended, it’s because the writers didnot have a clue about the definition of racism. In today’s world, that particular language was racist.

  25. Man of God preaching hate. Why are you in the white man’s country enjoying his sweat. ? Come home and build this country. of your. Always talking about white man this and that but rushing to live in his country. do you even have a farm in Liberia? The same Americos did not want their own black man to own land. Go learn history because putting pictures up will not win the argument. Countries that do not see color are thriving, even Sout hAfrica. 170 years and Liberia ain’t got shit!

  26. MY HONEST OPINION on “OPEN-CITIZENSHIP”:

    “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a (peaceful and free) people.”

    Open citizenship must be debated to create awareness of its disadvantages and advantages, as well as its impact on the life of the unsophisticated local community.

    There must be fair competition. Local citizens must be developed and empowered to participate in the economic life of society, and not be subjects of labor because of the lack of education, lack of financial power, and lack of land ownership.

    New sophisticated potential citizens with money-power may have the propensity of becoming land-grabbers, and dominate, and subject their indigenous neighbors (hosts) – a recipe for increased poverty and crime.

    Open citizenship is good (with restrictions): but for a prepared people (educated and financially vibrant – at the least).

    Government must develop strong institutions and improved legal framework, systems and processes to regulate and monitor compliance to rule of law and social policies – to minimize circumvention of the rule. If we can achieve the least of a strong legal framework (enforcement, interpretation, and correction) and be able to minimally control corruption, it is then, that we are ready for open citizenship.

    No need to rush. Government should Forecast, Plan, Measure opportunities and resource limitations, and chose the best among competing alternatives – all in real time. The suffering citizenry cannot wait endlessly.

    First step is to empower the citizens. Improve institutions: education, healthcare, and direct economic empowerment, with direct close supervision, monitoring and evaluation to ensure intended outcomes. Liberia needs more academic and tertiary leaning to develop skills and improve and solidify the manpower base. Create competition among citizens and reward best practice (those who achieve goals).

  27. Dr. Vansiea comments is not supported with any scholarly sources or citations. Therefore, I cannot qualify it yet as a scholarly research. Thank you

  28. WOW! Great article! Thanks, Sir! I recommend you to deliver the Independence Day Oration for 2018! It’s refreshing to see a selfless Liberia professional who wants to see progress in our country. There were 20 other people who wanted too be president but the president voluntarily campaigned to become a SERVANT of the people. He won! He is a paid servant and so an employee working for the Liberian people. When he took the oath to “uphold, protect and defend the Constitution”, it was not a joke-it was his JOB. The Lebanese citizenship thing was never a part of his public platform. It is a distraction. There are severe legal consequences for violating an oath. The President, as a humble Servant needs to publicly apologize for violating his oath and seeking the interests of individuals who never elected him to office.

  29. This author is rich in emotion, short in scholarship, and could benefit from a little lesson regarding present day paradigm shift in International Relations and nationality laws.

    Instead of exploiting and preying on the historical and sentimental value of our antiquated citizenship law, this author could have drawn some parallels( economic and other sociological) between countries that embrace multiple citizenship and countries that don’t. He could have established a framework in which the utility of reciprocity could be explored, as it relates to other countries that currently accord Liberians similar due diligence. He could have explored the economic advantage and disadvantages. Lastly, he could have given some examples( contemporary and historical),that would give credence to why he believes this measure wouldn’t serve Liberia right.

    A visceral and xenophobic reaction is not the way to foster the discourse regarding Liberia granting citizenship to non-negros!

  30. In my opinion, the piece by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Vansiea is well in it’s place.
    People who don’t read history are bound to repeat it and President Weah might fall into this trap. President Weah must convince us that this is the right decision not just by making a statement. It behooves him to make a case that is convincing based on his convictions by looking at diverse implications, e.g., political, economic, social, etc. The President enjoys so much support at this time that it is important for him to build upon that. In as much as some of us do not support his removal of the non-negro clause in the constitution, he should begin to work with his advisors by setting goals or milestones that link considerations for the removal of the non-negro clause to a reduction in the poverty and unemployment rates and an increase in the literacy rate. There is no guarantee that he may get the support that he needs by doing those things; on the other hand, people can begin to make reference to tangible things that improves their standard of living, quality of life, and the daily motivation to be hopeful of the future of their beloved country, Liberia! Also, let’s promise to keep our discourse civil. Gone are the days when we thought one group loved the country more or less than others. We are all stakeholders. We win together and we fall together. May God bless President Weah and the people of Liberia!

    • Yes. So what’s wrong with that? Is India not for the Indians, China for the Chinese, and Europe for the Europeans, etc.? Look people, had Africa never suffered from the ravages of slavery, colonialism, and even neo-colonialism, perhaps most of us who agree with Rev. Dr. Vansiea would have little or no problem with the extreme open door policy Weah is trying to force down the throats of poor Liberians. I totally agree with those who believe that it would be prudent to pursue such a goal systematically and with great caution. Alexander Pope reminds us that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

  31. Many thanks Doc.. Many Liberians are now believers of pseudo means/strategies for Liberia’s development. Your message may not have accentuated the wishes and aspirations of the ;Left wing intellectuals’, but I strongly believe that non-negro citizenship is not a number half option for Liberia development.
    To date we have done nothing to create a vibrant middle class. Not many Liberians can, in this 21 Century, show 100000 dollars as a wealth honestly earned. This means we are still crawling in terms of making our citizens economically strong to compete with guys in our neighboring countries. To this end, I can only hope that a special investment loan incentive with low interest rate be set aside for Liberian businesses only where we can borrow from to establish low and medium enterprises.
    Let’s stop thinking under our feet. Better can come out of Liberia and Liberians without taking such economic decision that would have long term negative consequences on the generation unborn.

  32. I must commend you for this brilliant response to this critical issue. It warms my heart as your former teacher. However as a Man Of God, which we both are, I must ask you a simple question. Will Jesus defend this “ Negro Only “ clause in our glorious constitution? A simple “ yes” or “ no “ will do. For this my friend is the divine litmus test.

    • Rev. Diggs, do you believe that Jesus would defend slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and other forms of egregious economic exploitation and human rights abuse? No, Jesus would not blame us for taking all the time necessary to protect the land his Father in heaven gave us so many years ago. And he will let us know when to accord citizenship to the Indians, Lebanese, Europeans, Chinese and all other members of the human race under the sun. Until then let us finally put our own house in order, love and respect ourselves, and build Liberia as a good God-fearing nation. We do not need foreigners to do that for us.

  33. It’s amazing how racist Liberians are but they try to explain it away by making ridiculous arguments that have no merits. Liberians are so dumb, and selfish that they even refuse to give dual-citizenship to their brothers and sisters to whom they call weekly to beg for money. How would the author or any of the racists in this debate explain that? We understand the historical context of the non-negro clause, but we live in the 21st century now. We are not the only African country that allows non-negro citizenship and there is no enslavement or what have you that these narrow-minded bigots are afraid of. How do you explain that Liberians are given citizenship in many other countries around the world, but we should discriminate against other human beings because they are not black? Very dumb and selfish.

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