Let freedom ring. Let freedom ring. Truly, what is freedom?
As Dr. Martin Luther King stated in his speech, “I Have A Dream,” with freedom comes justice, or a just way of life for everyone. Is it just, after 401 years, to still have Black boys and girls living in poverty all across this nation because systemic racism exists? Is it just to have a multitude of Black people be denied their basic rights to enjoy a good livelihood for themselves and their families? Is it just for Blacks to be put in redlined districts so that they have to pay a much higher premium for insurance or vehicles, or rent? Is freedom ringing for Blacks that so many whites take for granted who are able to live a reasonably sound, peaceable life, in a sound, peaceable neighborhood simply because of the color of their skin?
We need freedom to ring in every city, in every town, in every neighborhood where Black people live in order to have a more just and perfect union.
In order for there to be any hope of making any kind of lasting changes, there are some basic truths which need to be addressed. All blinders must come off. All feel-good sentiments must be stripped away in order to get at the heart of the matter of systemic racism, or more specifically put, systemic hatred for another human being. Let us not dance around this truth anymore.
It is hatred that got this nation into the place it is in, and has been. It is hatred for another race that looks different from another. And because of this hatred, it allowed people to believe deep in their hearts that it was OK to treat Black people without love. For with love, the heart sees a man as a man regardless of the skin color. With love, the heart wants goodness to happen to his or her fellow citizen just as it is happening to him or herself. For with love, the heart cannot hate. It is like fear. If fear is in your heart, you will not be able to have faith about a better life for yourself or for your fellow man, because what is in the heart the mouth will speak. And if hate is in the heart, then hate will spew out of your mouth.
How can a person believe in God or even say they love God when they hate their fellow man? For God is love, and anyone who says they love God and hates their brother is a liar. For those who believe in their heart of hearts that it is the color of one’s skin that determines how one should be treated, I have this question. Who gave you the right to believe that you can treat a Black man or woman or child any type of way, simply because of the darkness of their skin tone? Surely, God did not. It cannot be the same God who created heaven and earth and all that there is that gave you that right. Surely it cannot be the same God who breathed life into man, with love in His heart, and then turn around and say to the white man that he should treat Black people dishonorably, disrespectfully, and brutally because of their skin color.
Where is the love in one’s heart that can take the life of another human being simply because he or she wears a blue uniform and says a chokehold or a bullet in the back is somehow justifiable homicide? Surely, God did not say to white people that their lot in life was to enslave, torture, and steal the family lineage from Black people and rob them of a just way of life in this nation. No, a just God would not do that. God is love.
But love is a matter of the heart. This nation cannot heal its wounds, if it cannot be uncomfortable and deal with the truth; the truth of a lie. The truth of how all this got started and how the truth never shows up in educational materials starting in elementary classrooms. Let’s deal with the truth regarding the lack of generational wealth for Black families and how it could have been different. After the Civil War, General Sherman had a meeting with a few of the Black ministers of the thousands of newly freed slaves to discuss what they wanted. The Black ministers stated that they wanted their people to live by themselves away from the white man so that they could no longer have any control over them. General Sherman and his men set aside 400,000 acres of tillable land confiscated during the war so that each family would have a plot of not more than forty acres. It was called Field Order 15; commonly known as, “40 acres and a mule.” Unfortunately, after Lincoln was assassinated, President Andrew Johnson reversed the order of the land and gave it back to the Confederates. So, African-American people in this nation have been cheated out of wealth since being enslaved, after being emancipated from slavery, from the Jim Crow era, to not being able to vote, to where they are today.
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New laws can be legislated for reform. We can make changes in police departments. We can even give out more money to improve impoverished, beat down, unhealthy neighborhoods for Black people. This nation, under God, needs to and should make all necessary changes to uplift Black people in every way possible because it would be the right thing to do. And yet, if the hearts of men and women cannot be changed to allow the hate to go, and love to come, then all the changes will be for naught. For any level of lasting success to take place, the stony heart of man must be replaced with a pound of flesh; to receive love, to be loved, and to give love. You cannot give away what you do not possess. For Black people to be free in this nation, love must abound. For freedom to truly ring throughout this nation, it must let go of hate and hurt and latch onto love and goodness.
Carletta Knox Seymour is the owner of Dignity Soft Skills Consulting and Training, LLC, and is the newly elected state president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the first African-American woman to be elected to that position.