There goes the neighborhood! So what comes to mind? Well, might depend on whether you’re Gen X, Y, Z or top the generation gap. In one case it’s the title of a 1992 movie based in a NJ neighborhood. The plot is of a secret prison escape to find hidden money buried under a house. But for other folks the phrase is a throwback to times of ‘white flight’ around perceived fear of blacks moving into a neighborhood. With Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson now on the Supreme Court, those on the wrong side of history might be thinking (or even saying)…there goes the country!
Meantime, news reports of Supreme Court rulings, January 6th Congressional hearings, Mexico border human smuggling, white supremacists marching and a July 4th parade mass shooting as well as protests for another black male tragedy in policing, got folks calling-up Marvin Gaye, “What’s goin’ on?” The short answer is America’s unfolding the next phase of its journey. Flashback to the days of our founding in the village, right through today in the ‘hood. Like a good plot in a movie or hook for a song, See America In Color (SAIC) has a revealing thread from American history, the ‘Black to America’ story and #HometownStrong comebacks.
Author Isabel Wilkerson reminded us that this past July 4th was significant because America has been without slavery (1619 to 1865 = 246 years) for as long as its been an independent nation (1776 to 2022). Plus, we know the ideals from the Declaration of Independence were about advancing freedoms and self-determination. That makes sense when compared to the “Checklist of Our Liberties”:
- Inalienable (Unalienable) Rights: That which is there like air and should be universally available (e.g. life, liberty, pursuit of happiness)
- Constitutional Rights: That which sets us apart as a Republic (elections, representation, best life)
- Democratic Rights: That which allows us to participate in the general affairs of the country (voting, serving, supporting)
- Consensus Rights: That which is a prevailing view, expectation or practice (e.g. around choice, pride, community)
But the thread that connects these liberties with the ideals seems to keep getting knotted-up or otherwise unraveled from the fabric of America. Two reasons might help explain why, using examples from sports and tech. There’s the concept in pro sports called “Delay of Game”. It’s when a player tries to slow-down the progress of the other team. The penalty in basketball draws a technical foul while in hockey it’s sitting-out a player for two minutes in the penalty box. Some feel America is guilty of “Delay of Game” when it comes to rights, liberty and justice for all. Who’s ready to callout those times deserving of a technical foul or sitting-out a political player in the penalty box?
If that’s not enough to make the point, how ‘bout the tech case of applying a filter to pictures on your phone. This changes the look and feel of the image. In a sense, America’s journey has had different factors affecting its image which include oppression, discrimination, segregation, etc. One of the main problems comes from a ‘White Supremacy’ filter that distorts not just the image folks see or reflect, but also the chance to fully embrace those words from our founding document of “all are created equal.”
So as an Independence Day rewind for the culture, let’s make things plain so folks aren’t getting played anymore. A 50,000 ft view uses the high ideals we strive for as ‘we the people’ for perfecting our union. The longshot view takes us through the push and pull running its course over the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. You might even look at things not just from an American history perspective but also with a New World history point of view. This helps to see clearly based on the:
1. Age of Revolution (Constitutional Convention)
This was the jump-off for America’s startup. The founding fathers came together around the Declaration of Independence as a new nation. No more relying on Britain to determine our taxation, representation and the fate of future generations. But a system design and operating manual was needed, which led them to drafting the Constitution and supporting documents. Much of the work that came from the Constitutional Convention has continued to guide how we function as a republic. But there’s always been an undercurrent pulling folks from shores into deeper/choppy waters with repeating stories of survival.
2. Age of Emancipation (13th, 14th, 15th)
Since our founding it took almost 100 years (1776 to 1865) before emancipation from slavery came to be in the writing of Lincoln’s proclamation. Moreover, Juneteenth reminds us that even then, there was a further two and a half years delay in word getting to slaves in Galveston Texas. Other benefits of freedoms came with the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Those were key for releasing folks from feelings of bondage, servitude and second-class status. The gains didn’t depend on just a presidential proclamation but also on civic engagement and political involvement.
3. Age of Integration (’64, ’65, ’68)
As often happens with major social/political shifts, the Supreme Court played a role in going from emancipation to integration. Some say the Brown vs Board of Education ruling was pivotal to moving from the “separate but equal” doctrine of segregation. This led to three important public policy milestones: Civil Right Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These were key to ‘opening up America’ for business and opportunity for all its citizens. But some believe the possible gains helped to spur a backlash to the civil rights movement which we see playing out in many ways today.
4. Age of Deconstruction (Civics Convention)
There’re couple ways to look at our current times. One is folks trying to deconstruct the American experiment to better understand its inner working. This is like what happens as a kid when you get tired of playing with a toy, so curiosity has you pulling it apart to then put it back together. Another way to see it is people wanting to blow-up the whole thing. They’re looking to deconstruct America in a problematic way, to then put it back, but with a filter that favors power and control. Maybe a Civics Convention today could be a nod to the Constitutional Convention from our past? Wanna pull-off new public policy milestones?
To get a real sense for the checklist of our liberties like Reproductive Rights, Second Amendment Rights, etc, let’s follow the See America In Color thread. It brings a better picture of social issues with less political filter and more history, civics and culture. If that doesn’t work for you then try a line from the movie Independence Day. To meet the challenges facing our democracy we gotta keep “fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice, [we will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on!]”. Just think, maybe someday we can be all that we need to live that good life.
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Tracks: One Republic – Someday – https://youtu.be/vNfgVjZF8_4
Mickey Guyton – Black Like Me – https://youtu.be/zPH9hgKSai8