A Language Ignored for So Long Finally Heard
One of the most iconic and well-known phrases in all of American political thought comes from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.”
Over the past two weeks, a question I can’t help but ask is: To whom are these truths self-evident? If these truths that Thomas Jefferson asserted were so self-evident, George Floyd would have gone home on May 25 and would not have been senselessly murdered by a police officer. Jefferson was no prophet, but for the past 244 years, America has been sold the lie that our society is one that is equal and just. If this were the case, there would be no need to continue to march for the rights of African Americans. If this was truly fact, as we are often told by socially ignorant politicians on both sides of the political spectrum of our government, why was Ahmaud Arbery murdered on the streets of Georgia?
The obvious answer is that we have been well aware that the fight for the basic civil rights of people of color has been going on for centuries, and despite the freedoms that Abraham Lincoln laid out with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, the job was far from complete. Following the declaration, African Americans were emancipated and freed from the bondage of slavery, yet they were never integrated into society. Had Lincoln not been assassinated, perhaps history would have played out differently. Yet, left to their own devices, the Southern States never did their part, nor did any president for nearly 100 years. There was and has continued to be unequal treatment of minorities throughout this country, and at some point, enough has to be enough.
47 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his dream of a nation that was equal and ceased to judge based on skin color, yet we are here now, and the dream is still a dream. The progress we have made is far from enough for us to resume the slumber. If the dream were to at long last be a reality, there would no longer be murders driven by racism, and there would be no need to remind people that black lives matter because it would finally be as self-evident as Jefferson claimed from the moment he put ink to paper to ring in the ears of all future citizens of this country.
When it comes to this subject, we should not and cannot allow ourselves to fall into the traps that come with the partisan politics of today’s day and age. These are people’s lives that are being fought for; it is the prevention of further death and suffering in a community already subjected to failing school systems and forgotten public programs. The fact that there is even a need for debate about how to solve this issue should be mind-boggling to any open-minded individual. After all, this is not something that deserves to be bogged down in parliamentary disputes or shelved by politicians who shrug with indifference. These are not numbers of the coming year’s budgetary allocations nor are they simply homicide statistics; they are real people with names and families like all of us. To do anything less than putting forth policies that provide helpful solutions to the issue would be spitting in the eye of the grieving families of the deceased.
This is not to say that murder will cease to exist; yet, when those who are doing the killing are the very same individuals that took an oath to serve and protect their communities, it is necessary to call for changes to be made in a rational and sensible way. At the same time, the groups of rioters — whose sole contribution to the protests is by bringing violence and property damage to various communities — ought to be denounced wholeheartedly for poisoning the sea of change with their selfishness. To juxtapose their actions with those of the peaceful protesters would be doing a disservice to the true meaning of the movement and causes us to lose focus on the issues that warrant our attention. These are issues our government has ignored for far too long. To continue on this path can only lead to further tragedy. And haven’t we seen far too much of that lately?
Photo Caption: A Black Lives Matter protest
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons