Even though there is no legal basis for discrimination in the U.S. today, we are still having to deal with the vestiges and the scars of generations of racial inequality and injustice that accompanied years of segregation laws, domestic terror of lynchings and efforts to disfranchise black Americans, which resulted in the loss of political rights. This was the American experience unique to black Americans who were made to feel like an alien in their own country during the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, down to the mid-1900s.
Fortunately, during the early 1900s, black Americans and their white allies began organizing self-help and other civic organizations to protest and challenge these blatant injustices in our society which led to the eventual destruction of the wall of segregation, and much progress has been made in every aspect of American life in the ensuing three generations.
However, the fact remains that the pursuit of racial equality and social justice has always been a complicated matter for the American people. We just don’t seem to know how to deal with the issue of race and the difficult work required to heal the scars of slavery that were many generations in the making. Again, we tend to let things fester, while pretending everything is okay. Make no mistake about it, there is a need to continue to advance progress and change in order to make America, a better place to live for everyone.
Despite the progress we’ve made over the years, everything is not okay. The playing field is not yet level as evidenced by the disparities between blacks and whites in many areas, including education, employment, health care and our criminal justice system. Indeed, we all have a responsibility to speak out, using whatever platform we are given.
While ignoring the broader issue, there has been a side discussion in recent days dealing with NFL players taking a knee in protest for racial equality and justice during the national anthem. Just for the record and to complicate the matter more, Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” penning the lyrics, “over the land of the free,” was the heir of a wealthy slaveholding family in Maryland. He later became the district attorney for the District of Washington, D.C. and became an ardent defender of slavery.
Now, for what it’s worth, the NFL players who take a knee, believing the cause of racial justice is worth the risks involved, bringing attention to the call for racial equality, have my steadfast support. In our own way, we should all be taking a stand for equality and justice for all. The ideals that the flag represent need to be in our hearts to help bring about change, including racial reconciliation and healing, and those broader ideals need to apply to everyone.
We need to stop making excuses for this American hypocrisy and start practicing what we preach.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.