Towards a More Just America

Even though I have not been hopeful or optimistic about the direction the United States has been taking since President Trump was elected 3 and half years ago, the large number of protests across the United States recently in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have really been encouraging. I feel like there is hope for America yet. What is different about the protests in recent days compared to other BLM protests in the past is the large number of white people finally getting involved to seek justice for blacks. Maybe these white people just had to see with their own eyes the killing of an innocent black man (George Floyd, in this case) by a white policeman in order to believe it. Thanks are due to the 17-year-old brave black woman who taped the whole sorry episode on her cell phone and released it to the public.

Young people in particular, seem fired up in a way I haven’t seen since the 1960s when people were protesting the Vietnam War. Both our sons and their girlfriends are millennials, having been born in the 1990s. Our boys have been interested in politics and current events for many years because we would talk about what was happening in the world with them when they were growing up. I never thought that their girlfriends, by contrast, were especially interested in politics or working for social justice. Instagram posts in the past from either of them were typically a picture of friends, food or trips out of town. Now I am seeing regular posts about Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and white privilege on a regular basis from both of them. They obviously “got woke” in response to the killing of George Floyd. Now extrapolate from these two millennial women to hundreds of thousands of other white people and that’s how we arrive at such massive demonstrations for an end to police brutality around the nation. See White Americans Say They Are Waking Up to Racism. What Will It Add Up To? https://nyti.ms/2YoV25f

This great awakening by white folks is a hopeful sign for the future of America, particularly if new federal, state and local laws are passed to stop police brutality and end discrimination against people of color by police, the courts and the general public. It’s really sad how long it has taken for black people to be treated as equals in the United States, though. The poem below, “Let America Be America Again,” was written in 1935 by Black American poet Langston Hughes. It was written 85 years ago and the country is still dealing with the same issues now as it was then!

Let’s hope it doesn’t taken 85 more years before we see people of color treated with dignity and respect in the US. Let’s hope the pledge of allegiance we were required to say in American schools when we were children becomes real and true. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which is stands, one nation, under law, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Let America Be America Again

BY LANGSTON HUGHES
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

3 thoughts on “Towards a More Just America

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