Op-EdOpinion

WILLIAMS: Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a country called the United States of America. In the history of humankind, it was a relative newcomer.

The United States was hypocritically established under a set of principles and laws that, upon their face, were worthy, but impractical to implement given the mindset of many of its citizens. Even the author of its most important documents, who exalted the God-given freedoms of MEN, enslaved men, women, and children, and ignored the rights of white women.

Essential to its Declaration of Independence, the U.S. affirmed, “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.” These were empty words for enslaved persons. Comprising 25% of the U.S. and a third of the Southern population, their dehumanization was codified in the Constitution as three-fifths human. They were denied rights given by God and, for most, the only man-given right was the right to work for free — no life beyond enslavement, no liberty, and no pursuit of happiness.

Nearly 90 years after declaring independence and 150 years before that, the U.S. established itself as world economic power on the backs of enslaved persons. Even after the emancipation, extra-legal maneuvers allowed former slaveowners to re-enslave formerly enslaved in a status that recreated systemic slavery.

At a snail’s pace, social consciousness, mass guilt, and economic necessities eased the difficulty in the progression toward achieving various social amenities. In every U.S. war, enslaved persons and their progeny were allowed to fight and die for national interests. In percentages no less than that of whites, Black “citizens” made productive contributions to the national good.

For their entirety in the U.S., Blacks and other “citizens” of color learned about the value of the vote. After all, the U.S. was a democracy operating on the premise of “majority rule.” Although they were locked out of the voting process by extra-legal procedures like counting beans or bubbles in a bar of soap, or by the indifference of futility and frustration, they witnessed and took note of the power and influence that others derived from voting.

Taking note led to action, and Blacks and other citizens of color began to pursue an equal measure of participation and reward. It looked like their efforts would bear fruit until an Orange Ogre appeared spouting “Grievance Politics.” This Orange Ogre convinced a small, but active group that their lives were being unfairly imposed upon by people of color, or folks who spoke a different language, or folks seeking a better life in the U.S.

The Orange Ogre convinced his followers that the remedy to their frustration of seeing others enjoying the fruits of the U.S. was to reject the principles of democracy which had shaped it and brought any greatness it had achieved. Under his tutelage, they developed alternate realities where truth and facts do not matter. He taught that the undemocratic theft of elections and the unfair retention of power were means to a positive end. And the world would, once again, be the great place for those not cursed with abundant melanin.

This fairy tale is far too similar to our own reality. It’s not amusing or frivolous. We are at a historic crossroads and our children’s future is in the balance. Whether straight facts or fairy tales, you must understand the significance of the problem. Our voice and our right to vote are being challenged into oblivion. YOU must accept a sense of urgency that is proportional to the threat. You must beware of that “great” place to which the Orange Ogre wants to return.

Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women and host of “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW-FM (89.3).

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