Ever since the original slave ship arrived in 1619, America has struggled with racism. Although indentured servants came in all races, the institution of slavery was reserved for those black people imported from Africa. The darkness of their skin made them easily discernable from those of European descent who represented control of the land that formed the new country.
Even the founding fathers of America were not immune to the call of enslaving other human beings. Washington and Jefferson were slave owners. And even Jefferson’s affinity for Sally Hemmings did not prevent him from ownership of other human beings. Because it was socially acceptable during this time, it does not excuse the moral failing that other human beings are less than another because of the color of their skin. It is a proposition that seems flawed on the face of it, unless you are racist in your thinking.
Even Abraham Lincoln is questioned about his motivation for the Civil War. Was it about slavery or economics? His loyalty to the Union was obliviously much higher than his commitment to end slavery. But to preserve the Union, slavery had to be abolished. So we have the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitutional Amendments that should have made all Americans equal. But it is clear they did not.
The advent of Jim Crow and the decisions of the Supreme Court made sure America remained a divided country. Our Congress, state legislatures, governors and even the presidency were populated by people who believed white supremacy was the “natural order”. Even though the Supreme Court and Acts of Congress responded to the uprisings of the 50’s and 60’s, an America where all people are equal remained a dream deferred. Today, after the election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States, we still seem to struggle with the issue of race.
What has made America great are the professed ideas in the U.S. Constitution. We describe ourselves as a place where everybody is respected, regardless of race, religion, gender, or national origin. “ We hold these truths to be self-evident……..” - maybe, but not in reality. There is too much disparity to be found in our criminal justice system, in the distribution of wealth, and in our representative government. Those in power continue to believe in the principles of exploitation that keep those in charge with inordinate control of our society. The unfortunate unwillingness to call Charlottesville what it was from the very beginning is an indication that we have long ways to go.
While I know we have not arrived there, I am confident that if America is to retain its place as a model society, it cannot do so as long as we place race above other areas of competence. We must value the best ideas, the best thinking, the best actions, from wherever they originate. We must embrace every human being as a creation of God, and therefore capable to making our journey on this earth better. As long as we cling to racism, we ensure our ultimate doom.