Recommitting to a 'fair and equitable' society by Congressman A. Donald McEachin
2/21/2020, 6 a.m.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These words that launched our nation’s improbable experiment in democracy, setting our nation’s course toward liberty and justice for all, were drafted and ratified by men who contributed to the evils of slavery, America’s original sin.
Yet they outlined a story of a people beyond their original conception, with their ideals inspiring generations of African-Americans to dare to carve out, in the face of institutionalized and often brutal racism, a place for themselves in the history of an unfamiliar land and unforgiving society.
We stand on the shoulders of those giants who held firm to that daring resolve, fighting for and following these truths to define through their struggle and shared determination a more complete American story that included them and their loved ones.
We stand on the shoulders of ancestors who looked to the heavens and prayed for the strength to fight for the liberty they knew was their stolen birthright, before sprinting under cover of night to follow the North Star toward freedom.
We stand on the shoulders of generations who fought to hold on to their dignity under the hateful eye of Jim Crow; who reached for the great American equalizers of the ballot box and a good education and were met with the threat of genocide and a wave of fear.
We stand on the shoulders of everyday Americans who were subjected to clubs and hoses, to spitting jeers and snapping hounds; who were brutalized on Freedom Rides and those who marched on anyway from Selma to Montgomery to shine a light on the evils of racism in our country.
We stand on the shoulders of a dreamer who followed that North Star, quoting these words at the 1963 March on Washington and challenging a nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal.”
These words were front of heart and mind in the struggle to pass the long-overdue Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They inspired Shirley Chisholm to run for Congress and then to aspire to the nation’s highest office; words that paved the way for our 44th president, Barack Obama, to be elected the leader of a nation that just 50 years prior would have denied him the right to vote.
In our 400-year journey from our ancestors’ subjection to the subhuman conditions of American slavery, we have made great strides toward a “more perfect union” — toward a more inclusive, “We the People,” than our founding fathers could ever have conceived. Yet, we still have so much more to build — so much farther to climb.
Shackles don’t have to be made of iron to hold people back. Black children are much more likely to attend underachieving schools, to live in low-income neighborhoods, to be victims of crime. Black women are more likely to die in childbirth, while young African-Americans perish at the hands of law enforcement. In an already tough economy, black families are having a harder time getting loans, putting savings away and getting promoted at jobs.