The Promissory Note

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I suppose that I am someone who might genuinely be called a cockeyed optimist. I have always had faith in the innate goodness of people. I believe that we are born innocent and only become evil if we have a brain defect or grow up in a toxic environment. I think that even when an evil person or group comes to power there will always be hordes of individuals with moral courage who are willing to fight for what is right and just.

I am also a realist. I know that even the best of us have imperfections. That includes countries and governments as well. While the United States of America was founded with good intentions the need to compromise to get everyone on board led to beginning our nation with slavery firmly in place. It was a kind of original sin that lasted far too long and should not have taken a civil war to eliminate. 

It would have been wonderful if all of our citizens had embraced the freeing of the slaves as not just a good thing but an act of contrition for the cleansing of our national conscience. Instead we continue even to this day to grapple with truths that we claim to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal and as such are due the same rights and privileges. We have yet to admit in unison and with fervor that in the history of our country Black Americans have been wronged and all too often along with them have been immigrants with darker skin from countries thought to be deficient. 

For a time I believed with all of my heart that we humans were slowly but surely evolving into better versions of ourselves. All too often I have been left to ponder why we so often back slide into selfish racist behaviors, sometimes seeming not to even realize we are doing so. I cringe whenever I hear people being stereotyped and misunderstood. Of late, I am sad to say, there has been more of that sort of thing than I have witnessed since I was a young girl growing up in the Jim Crow south of segregation and humiliation of an entire race of people. 

I hear those speaking of the Black Lives Movement as though the only thing they learned from it is that in some of the places where protests occurred things got out of hand and property was damaged and looted. To listen to them speak one would think that this happened in every single incident and that entire cities were burned to the ground. 

Of course we never want to encourage or accept violence of any sort even that in the name of justice. Those who break the law should be held accountable because they not only create damage to structures and businesses but they damage the message of Black people seeking to let us all know that we still have work to be done to help our brothers and sisters who have yet to reach the promised land of American life. 

It pains my heart to hear that the millions of voices raised to bring awareness to the realities of being Black in America have too often been reduced down to an unfair judgement because of the actions of a few. I wonder if those who turn against the movement because they see it as violent or unpatriotic realize that they are in truth demonstrating one of the main challenges that Black Americans face. It seems that no matter whether Black citizens kneel in quiet peaceful protest or walk through city after city with no incidents some Americans will only view them as trouble makers whose cause is overblown and unworthy of consideration. Many of these same people would argue for hours about the evils of aborting babies but are not willing to hear the cries of Blacks who live in a state of chronic fear. 

If I were able to live long enough to see one thing before it die it would be to finally view the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream. I want to see a world in which Black and White Americans walk together in total harmony without prejudice and with a willingness to fully understand the impact that a long history of slavery has had on our society even today. I want to be around when racism is driven away like the plague that it is. 

I am not so foolish to imagine that my wish will come true but even becoming better and better with each new generation would be a move in the right direction. There has been progress but we cannot be content when we see that problems still exist and sometimes they are even promulgated with political propaganda. Until the day we all want to know how we can help rather than castigating those who bring problems to our attention we still have much work to do. 

I want to see us fulfill the promissory note that Dr. King told us must one day come due…

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”


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