This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation being issued by President Abraham Lincoln as part one of a two part process. Part two would eventually lead to three million enslaved Africans being freed under the behest of the United States. As the country harkens back to those turbulent times, we must take a truthful introspection on how far we've come on the daedal issue of race and what needs to be done to make our nation the beacon of equality.
The Historical Prism of Race
Throughout the history of the United States, race has been at times our undoing or our unifying factor in helping bring about the process of change in our society. Race evokes certain emotions in all of us. It tends to be the 1,000 pound elephant in the room due to the level of discomfort individuals have when it's confronted head on. The lack of education the majority has received about other cultures contributes to the overall problem. Race, creed, and color are three things that continue to define all of us much to our chagrin.
A country founded on racist principles will find it increasingly difficult to address such a divisive issue, but it must be done for the sake of the future. After the Emancipation Proclamation was officially signed into law on January 1, 1863, Blacks were viewed and treated as second-class citizens in a country that they built from the ground up. The historic documents written to establish this country as its own separate entity excluded everyone except White males. Blacks weren't recognized as citizens until two years later in 1865. Truth be told, we're still waiting for an authentic piece of the American dream.
Upon the ratifying of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, Black survival was preyed upon like a condor by those in power. White supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan among other factions waged a one hundred year war in different parts of the country to decimate and extirpate the legislative advances made to favor Blacks in finally assimilating them into the society at large. After the temporary defeat of Jim Crow, poll-taxes, and grandfather clauses Blacks have been met with more institutional barriers and obstacles.
How Do we Finally Proclaim Emancipation?
Due to the decades of arduous work by some extraordinary citizens carrying the blood stained banner for freedom, our nation has progressed substantially on race. But there needs be a herculean effort by this generation to build on the cornerstones left by our legendary barrier breakers. Some of our White brethren still refuse to acknowledge these facts as well as the statistics proving Black disenfranchisement. Before we can progress fully as a society this ignorant denial has to cease.
There have been discussions recently around the term post-racial. The United States will never be a post-racial society unless serious dialogue and actions to reform these unjust measures begin. The work needs to take place in our homes, schools and to a larger extent our lawmaking bodies. The responsibility of tackling this dreaded disease of racism falls at the feet of Generation Y and Z. For every person in this society to begin receiving a fair shake, each one of us has to become proactive in fighting on the side of right and not on the side of privilege.
President Lincoln was in the process of constructing legislation in his second term that would've given Blacks an equal playing field among their White countrymen, but notorious racist John Wilkes Booth put a quick end to those plans. It's always an intriguing thought to imagine if Abraham Lincoln would have lived and assisted in giving birth to a novel American ideal where the words of the Constitution were transformed into action by American citizens in the 19th Century. To his credit, he left an indelible mark on the fabric of our nation during some our most caliginous days.
The time has arrived for racism to be openly and honestly discussed, denounced, and deposed of. If our country is to remain united, these unlawful injustices and practices must be addressed and policies must be enacted to curtail the centuries of damage already done. Blacks alongside Whites have been fighting on the battlefield of justice for as long as others have been fighting against it. Let's restart this process of racial conciliation and economic empowerment that Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass envisioned for our great nation. The future of our society is contingent upon this potential of mutual respect for every citizen. Otherwise, the one hundred and fifty year promise laid forth within the text of the Emancipation Proclamation will be rendered meaningless.
In the words of former Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, "I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust...We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better."
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