This weekend, as we celebrate the 239th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let’s remember that President Abraham Lincoln once described America as having been “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It was 150 years ago this year, too, that the Civil War ended with the emancipation of the slaves, starting us on a journey for justice that continues to this day.
Our 2015 Fourth of July celebration has taken on a special importance due to the fact that it has come on the heels of the Charleston church massacre, causing us to re-examine the true meaning of America’s founding promise, “all men are created equal.” In the aftermath of the Charleston church shooting, we have been forced to deal with the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate and oppression, with many people now saying the flag should come down and be placed in a museum, while calling for a new America that includes everyone.
Going forward, let’s not allow this to be another missed opportunity in dealing once and for all with the issue of the Confederate flag. I believe we are at a point now in our nation’s history where we are ready to work for a solution in dealing with our legacy of hate and racism.
Someone once said, “We can’t put our sins behind us until we are ready to face them.” If we are ever going to be a truly great country, making full use of our great potential, we need to face our own history of “unspeakable crimes’ and its impact on present-day American life. Then, we will better understand why many of our racial tensions had their origin in our country’s shameful past.
Additionally, we will come to realize that many things that plague our community today, including inequalities in our educational, economic, social, criminal justice and healthcare systems are symptoms of a problem that is rooted in our nation’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and racism.
Let me be clear: we cannot let that tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston divide us, for we still have to move past those things that keep us fearful. The key is learning to respect the humanity and dignity of all. As a community, we must be more caring and supportive of each other, getting to know and understand one another to help further dispel the myths and stereotypes that have been generations in the making.
Starting today and every day, we must continually challenge our nation to become better. As a people, it’s time to let our actions, not our reactions, move us in the direction of a more just society. As good people of all backgrounds, let’s stay inspired to do more in making Clinton and Sampson County a more “perfect place to call home.”