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A statesman once wrote: “Every man in the street, white, black, red or yellow knows...

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huilin | eNoter

Posted March 14, 2013 at 7:41 PM via web

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A statesman once wrote: “Every man in the street, white, black, red or yellow knows that this is 'the land of the free' ... 'the cradle of liberty'." I need some help with how Emma Goldman and William Sumner would respond to this statement.
 

 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 14, 2013 at 8:07 PM (Answer #1)

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In order to understand how these two people would have responded to the statement given, we must think about what those people were.  Goldman was an anarchist and feminist who was radical enough to be referred to as “Red Emma.”  By contrast, Sumner was an advocate of Social Darwinism and laissez-faire government. 

The statement that you give, by Ralph Bunche, is meant as praise of the American system.  It argues that America’s democratic and capitalistic system gives opportunities to all people (or at least all men).  As a radical, Goldman would surely have disagreed.  She felt that the capitalists and the government were conspiring to keep the workers down.  This was one reason that she was a labor leader and an anarchist.  She would not have felt that America was the land of opportunity for the proletariat.  She would also have felt that Bunche’s statement was telling because it omitted women.  She would have felt that America did not provide opportunities for women to any real degree.

By contrast, William Graham Sumner would have been much more likely to agree with Bunche.  He would have said that American society is one in which all people are given the chance to compete.  He would have said that any inequalities are simply a result of some groups outcompeting others.  He would have felt that America was the land of opportunity and would remain so as long as the government did not intervene excessively in the market. 

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