Define Equality: Take Two


Samantha Suman

Editor in Chief

America: the land of the free, the home of the brave, the safe haven of democracy, the advocate of our unalienable rights. Well, that is what we preach and want the world to believe. But is this true? Do our actions accurately reflect our words? With the recent Donald Sterling incident dominating recent news, one cannot deny the irony of the situation.

“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.”

This quote from the Declaration of Independence has been engrained in every American child’s psyche. They are told that they live in the greatest country in the world, and they believe it. The statement itself, however, was written by a hypocrite. In a time when the British colonies were seeking freedom, they themselves had a limited scope of what this actually meant. Once they became the United States of America, the hot topic of major elections became the issue surrounding the ownership of African slaves. Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, and the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was himself a slave owner. George Washington owned slaves. Andrew Jackson owned slaves, and he is on the 20 dollar bill! Due to this “peculiar institution” (otherwise known as slavery), our country even failed to remain a union, which resulted in the ignition of the Civil War. This began the debate over the very meaning of freedom, where southern white plantation owners felt that their freedom to own slaves was violated, while the northerners tried to protect the freedom of the slaves.

So their freedom, to take other people’s freedom, was taken away from them…Huh?

The United States has definitely progressed since its founding. Abraham Lincoln, through executive order, put the Emancipation  Proclamation into effect on January 1st 1863. The 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery on December 6th, 1865. In 1954, the court case Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate but equal facilities were inherently unequal. And most obviously during our lifetime, in 2008, the United States elected its first African American president, Barack Obama. This is just a sampling of the progressive strides the country has made.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. It formally prohibited discrimination and segregation in public facilities, such as hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters. Completely changing the social dynamic of American culture, this act was one of the biggest steps towards racial equality. Although it did not solve the problem of prejudice, it helped to legally eliminate it.

I know the world is not a perfect place. In fact, it is far from it. I know that the passage of an act does not work like the click of a button. I know that racism still exists. However, when I hear Sterling say, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” to his African American-Hispanic girlfriend, I can’t help but to put it into context. As we celebrate the progressivism of the nation, we must acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done. The irony of Sterling’s comment is a constant reminder that we have not finished our job yet as the land of the free, the home of the brave, the safe haven of democracy, and the advocate of our unalienable rights. A country famed for these ideals is still struggling to comprehend what they really mean. Our national conscience tells us that racism is unacceptable, however there is still a solid group of people that cannot shake the prejudice views instilled in them by older generations.

Now, using the same spark that inspired our founding fathers to build this country, my fellow Americans, let’s get back to work.