I just love the U.S. 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."
Such a bold move by our nation's founders, and such a beautiful declaration of what our nation is about.
For so many years, though, it's full promise was not and has not been realized. These "truths" first applied to only white, property-owning men, then white men. It took incredible struggle to add other groups to that list -- African-Americans, women -- and that struggle continues.
A lot has changed since the Declaration was signed. Writes the ACLU's Washington D.C. Legislative Office Director:
"On Independence Day, I will have the esteemed honor of being the first African American descendant ever asked to read the Declaration of Independence as part of a longstanding July 4th tradition at the National Archives. Recently, descendants of original signers were asked to read sections of the Declaration in homage to this country's founding fathers. As I'm sure you can well imagine, heretofore, those descendants have been white.
It may come as a surprise that my familial background on my mother's side is one of mixed lineage. On one hand, my fifth great grandfather was Philip Livingston of New York, one of the 56 original signers of the Declaration of Independence, on the other, my second great-grandmother Barbara Williams was a slave and concubine of the signer's grandson, Philip Henry Livingston. The Livingstons were a prominent dynasty of merchants in the lucrative Triangular Trade of African slaves. My story illustrates the complex roots of the founders and the untold sequence of events culminating in this venerated holiday."
Unfortunately, all people still aren't treated equally in our nation.
Discrimination on the basis of race and gender are still large problems, in the workplace, in voting booths and especially the criminal justice system. And discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continues to be codified into law.
We must continue our work until all people are treated equally in our nation. If you aren't a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, please join today. What a wonderful way to celebrate our nation's Independence Day.