“Amendment X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
I was 14 years old, in 10th grade at a Brooklyn, NY high school. I was taking American History taught by the chairman of what they used to call the “Social Studies” department. We were studying the Constitution.
Mr. Cohen asked “What part of the Bill of Rights can lead to denial of civil rights?”
No one answered.
My hand shot up.
I was a teenager just beginning to understand the dynamics of social pressure, gossip and shaming.
What was I going to say? I didn’t have an answer to his question but something impelled me to speak.
“The Tenth Amendment”, I answered.
He looked up. He was a scholarly man, probably reaching the age of retirement.
“How?” he asked.
The words tumbled out.
“By reserving all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government, to the states, the states can pass and enforce laws that are discriminatory.”
I was sure the other students were going to burst out laughing.
Mr. Cohen lit up like a candle.
Right then and there, I learned a valuable lesson. One should think for themselves and trust their instinct, their inner voice, hopefully ones based on knowledge, experience and values.
Being the first generation daughter of Holocaust survivors helped.