Our country celebrated her birthday on July 4th –Independence Day. She turned 236 years old. As we reflect on the 4th of July, let’s remember that our nation has evolved and is still evolving in freedom. Our founding fathers denied freedom for blacks and women. Blacks who were enslaved were counted as less than a whole person. Women were denied the right to vote in the government. When I hear conservatives say they want to take our country back, I wonder how far back they want to take us.
Our founding fathers, who drafted the U.S. Constitution, in the years following the 1776 Declaration of Independence, wanted “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.” The U.S. Constitution has added 27 amendments since the original signing with the first 10 amendments designated as the Bill of Rights. Some of those amendments granted voting rights for blacks and women, freedom for blacks and lowering voter age to 18. As a nation, we evolved through struggle and change. As President Obama stated in his campaign speech in 2008:
“What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”
Today we still have legalized discrimination. Women still earn 77 cents to every dollar a man earns for the same job. Blacks are systematically discriminated in employment and in housing with the sub- prime mortgage industry, which resulted in the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in our country. There are new attempts to disenfranchise blacks, Hispanics and women through newly enacted Republican voter ID laws disguised under the rampant lie of voter fraud.
The words spoken by President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign on “a more perfect union” are important to hear today. He said:
“In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.”
Our democracy has always been evolving to include even greater rights than our founding fathers ever envisioned. And we are still evolving after 236 years. One thing is for sure, we cannot take our country back. Going back is not an option for us. We will not take our country back.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.