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Time for a winning strategy

Melvin B. Miller

The Fourth of July is not just beer and barbeque and fireworks displays. Independence Day is also a time for thoughtful citizens to reaffirm their commitment to the basic principles of the republic. The nuances between the people and the government are constantly subject to review.

Everyone has been inspired at one time by Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence: “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.”

According to the New York Times, an earlier draft of that document directly condemned slavery, even though Jefferson was a slave owner. In a scathing denunciation, Jefferson wrote King George III “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.” Not surprisingly, this provision was rejected by representatives from southern states.

After the revised language was approved by representatives from all 13 states, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. But that was only the beginning. There had to be a constitution to establish the federal rules of governance. So founding fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787, and by September 17 they had developed a Constitution to be submitted to Congress for approval.

For the next century, as whites were able to focus on their personal achievement and development of the nation, blacks were fettered with the burden of unshackling themselves from the bonds of slavery. And even though that was achieved in 1863, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson that discrimination against blacks was constitutional as long as the circumstances were “separate but equal.”

Racial discrimination imposed an inferior status on blacks and induced many blacks to think of themselves as inferior human beings. Such a negative attitude is an impediment to progress. Unfortunately, an unavoidable consequence of the constant and necessary battle for equal rights was to reinforce inadvertently the image of black inferiority.

Despite the numerous barriers to progress, black achievement has been substantial. Unfortunately, many blacks are unaware of these achievements because the major media prefer to focus more on gang bangers and black poverty. Also, many African Americans are more interested in rap stars and black athletes and the glamorous lifestyles they can afford with their opulent incomes.

Without a respect for their elders, a concern of African Americans for their own history will ultimately die. Without a profound knowledge of their achievements, blacks will continue to be impaired by a sense of inferiority. America is a land of progress and achievement. One of the greatest challenges facing African Americans is to battle the media characterization of being unproductive and inferior.

Black leaders worthy of the title must eliminate the concept of “victim” from the African American psyche and, like the nation’s founders, develop a sound strategy to enable the group to prosper and succeed. That can happen only when the people have a positive attitude about themselves and are willing to seize opportunities.