Juneteenth Flag_Wisconsin_Justice_For_All

Juneteenth Flag flying under Wisconsin’s State and American Flags. June 19, 2020.

Are All Men Created Equal?

“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.” These words come from the Declaration of Independence, a document written on July 4, 1776, which should signify liberty and justice for all Americans. Yet, 244 years later, we are still not all treated equally, regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin. I would like to say that Independence Day celebrated is not an issue of racism, and instead is a day when we celebrate our freedom and liberty. As an African American woman, I believe in what Abraham Lincoln indicated, and that is that everyone should have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Frederick Douglas, however, so eloquently stated on July 5, 1852, about what July 4 meant to slaves. Douglas plainly said during his speech “What To The Slave is the Fourth of July?,” that “positive statements about American values, such as liberty, citizenship, and freedom, were an offense to the enslaved population of the United States because of their lack of freedom, liberty, and citizenship.” Over 150 years later, the treatment of African Americans, in many regards, alarmingly, has a remarkable resemblance to the way things were way back then, in many parts of our country. Are African Americans still bound to a plantation and forced to labor? No, we are not. However, there still is an underlying attitude that oppresses the African Americans to the point that, despite what we do and the many accomplishments that we make, the equality that we have a right to, as African Americans, still is missing. 

Equality for All

Strides toward equality for ALL Americans have been made. Memoirs of those once idolized for suppressing people due to their skin pigmentation are starting to be abolished. Lawmakers are beginning to recognize a need for policy changes and are making them. On June 19, for the first time in history, Wisconsin’s governor proclaimed the Juneteenth flag be flown over the State Capital with the American and state flag! Thankfully, we are not where we started. African Americans are no longer enslaved on plantations. Things have progressed, but there is still much work to be done.

In these last days and weeks and months, we have seen horrific violence against African Americans, reflecting the sad, horrible part of our history we all had prayed would eventually subside. We all thought we might finally be able to live in dignity and safety, the land of “liberty and justice for all,” under the laws that my husband and millions of others have fought for. We imagined long ago that that day would surely have arrived long, long before now. And yet, we still face the same discrimination and blatant, very hurtful racism of the past.

Desegregation in the Military

Blacks, Browns, Whites, and many other ethnic groups stand alongside one another to fight for our country today, as throughout much of our history. Segregation in the military was officially abolished in 1948 under an executive order by Harry S. Truman. It officially abolished segregation and discrimination in the United States Armed Forces “based on race, color, religion, or national origin.” As a military family, my husband and I have benefitted much from that extraordinarily important declaration. While far from being a perfect solution, it was a long-overdue step and a critical one in starting the process of helping provide dignity and respect to Black and Brown service people sacrificing their lives for all Americans. But it was a start only.

We Are All Better Together

Let’s stand together as one people – not divided. This is the only way that America can ever continue to be seen as a respected world leader, a model, and a leader of all peoples. If some people had their way, African Americans would be suppressed, kept in “their place,” humiliated, and afflicted with pain. African American people have worked alongside others of various ethnic groups to help shape and build this country. We need one another, and we are all better together.

Despite color, despite pigmentation of their skin. Despite ethnic identity. This is the only way that the very straightforward language of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the critical tenets of the Constitution, can be realized for all peoples in this land of immigrants. We need to live and work together in peace and solidarity, respect, and kindness so that we can all be part of a great country to be admired and emulated by all for its humanity, above all else.

I send you and your loved ones best wishes for a happy and meaningful 4th, hoping that all people of this wonderful country and countries worldwide will one day be able to live in freedom, kindness, and peace for the good of all humanity.   

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