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"In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 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 would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." --Martin Luther King, "I Have A Dream", 1963
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Closing in on a half century after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech and after the election of the first African American president, race is still alive as an issue in America. And as it has always been, some of us see issues of race where others don't.
The tragedy in New Orleans spoke to us of the different experience you can still have in America based on your zip code.
The face of poverty is still primarily a face of color. Many argue that is cause to continue affirmative action measures, others think the time for these policies have come and gone. And despite the many years since we integrated, today's demographic trends show more than ever we're choosing to associate with people just like us.
Noting that he made the address to get out of the political pickle caused by what some viewed as racially-based remarks by his pastor Jerimiah Wright, candidate Barack Obama's 2008 "A More Perfect Union" speech addressed race in a uniquely unflinching way that may be of some use to kick off our discussion. He said of Rev. Wright's comments:
... they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America... Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems... problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
...For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care and better schools and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans: the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for our own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
...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...
So let's have a discussion and make it real
, but no name-calling, alright?