If you did not get a chance to read the op-ed in the Shawano Leader, here it is:


“…with liberty and justice for all.”

How often have we said those words when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and not really thought about what the words really meant.  Being free within a society from the oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life is liberty.  It means civil rights and human rights.

Just behavior or treatment is justice.  It means fairness and equity.Since 1892 these words have been recited as an expression of allegiance to the flag of the United States and the republic of the United States of America.  However, the “for all” part of the pledge has never really applied to everyone.

Beginning in the 17th century, European colonizers seeking to amass untold riches, abducted people from the western shores of Africa.  They forcibly transported them to what is now the United States.  Once here, this country’s founders legally declared that Black people were not fully human and declared them to be white man’s property.

By the 1780’s a religious group called the Quakers were the first Abolitionists who no longer owned slaves.  Though many who opposed slavery did not regard blacks as equal to whites, they did generally believe in freedom and often even equality of treatment for all people.

Inequality can manifest itself racially, socially and economically. 
Racial equality is believing that individuals, regardless of their race, are morally, politically, and legally equal and should be treated as such.  Racial inequality deprives individuals of opportunity and treatment because of their race.

Social equality means that all people within a group are having the same status in respect to civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to certain social goods and social services. Social inequality can be found in income gap, health care, and social class.

Equity or economic equality exists when there is fairness in providing goods and services to all citizens regardless of identity.  Economic inequality can lead to higher crime rates, poorer public health, and lower average education levels.

Prior and during the American Civil War, the number of Abolitionists, who believed in human equality in the North, became more numerous.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation showed the shift in political attitudes, although it did not completely extinguish legal slavery in several states.  As many of us first learned during this year’s celebration of Juneteenth, slaves in Texas didn’t know they were free until more than two years later.

After the war, the government passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution guaranteeing the rights of blacks.  Many ex-slaves had access to education for the first time.  Blacks were also allowed to vote.

Due to resistance in the South, however, Reconstruction ended and steps toward positive race relations were eroded.  The Jim Crow laws were enacted during the period from 1890 to 1920.  These laws limited equality safeguards such as the right to vote, hold jobs and get an education.  Many Confederate statues were erected during this Reconstruction period to preserve southern values, history and culture.  Many consider these values to include racism and glorification of slave holders.  Protesters are demanding that these symbols of black oppression be moved or torn down.

The Black Lives matter movement was founded in 2014 in response to the murder of Michael Brown by the Ferguson Police Department.  It has been at the forefront of the movement to reform policing policies toward Black citizens.

For four hundred years racism has been a disease we’ve failed to adequately address.  It manifests itself today in the high incarceration of black people, health care disparities, and unequal wages, education and housing.

During the past few weeks, millions have gathered to memorialize George Floyd’s death, to demand change and accountability, and to call on this country to keep its promises of justice, fairness, and equity.

Governor Evers believes that we need to start by having accountability for unacceptable use of force by certain law enforcement officers in our country and our state.  He is calling on the Wisconsin Legislature to immediately pass Assembly Bill 1012 which would reform our use of force policies by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force.

Nationally, the Democrats in the House of Representatives recently passed a similar reform legislation–the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.  Before this law can take effect it needs to get through the Republican controlled Senate and be signed by the President.

One bill isn’t the solution to racism but it’s a start.  We need systematic change to address the racist policies and attitudes of the past.  The Black Lives Matter movement demands that we create a society that affirms human worth and creates spaces where people take care of one another as best they can.

Change starts with us.  It is time to do the work.  We must confront society’s comfort with racism.  We must become anti-racist.  All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.  It is our responsibility to make the world better place.

There is no one way to fight for freedom.  All that is required is that we continue that fight for freedom and justice for all.

The Declaration of Independence states it well:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
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