The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the Unites States of America, on January 1, 1863. The purpose of the document was to state that all remaining slaves in the United States of America were considered freemen. “The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens. It made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.“(Wikapedia) This Proclamation was not well received by the ten states in the country that at that time still held that slavery was their right. Clearly matters of opinion varied greatly - with the lives of 4 million transplanted Africans, and their decendents, being at stake.
The End of the Civil War brought about the end of slavery within the United States of America, continuing on to today. This event, the freeing of slaves through war, is considered by many to be one of the greatest conflicts of sacrifice in the country’s history. It is believed by many to have been a success, the act of sacrifice, so that all people in the nation can truly be free and equal, as the Declaration of Independence stated:
“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.”
The question remains, however, are we, the citizens of the United States of America, truly free and equal within our own nation? Today marks the anniversary of the greatest meeting of the equality movement in the USA as well as the famed speech given by Martin Luthor King Jr. In that speech King declares the following:
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today,
signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great
beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had been seared in the flames of
withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their
captivity. But one hundred years later, the colored America is still not free.
One hundred years later, the life of the colored American is still sadly
crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of
One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a
lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the
corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land So we
have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
Has anything changed since Dr. King’s speech? Some argue yes. They point to the fact that Barack Obama, a man of mixed race, Caucasian and Black, has risen to the highest station in the country – President. This alone is heralded by many as proof that the country has truly changed. However, we still need to answer the question: Are we all free and equal?
To answer this question we must first consider the following points:
- There remains a great divide in pay levels in the USA between men and women, black and white, young and old.
- The military still splits out duties between gender. (They are working on changing this.)
- Heterosexuals and Homesexuals still have different rights.
- Islamist extremists are called terrorists, Christian Extremists are called confused.
- Medical insurance is now required for all members of society, except for Congress, the Senate and the President, whom all are granted a higher level of medical insurance for life – for free.
- Tax brackets vary dependent on how much money you made.
- Schools, from state to state, do not teach the same material.
- State taxes are not equivalent.
- The right to bear arms is not executed in the same fashion in each state.
- Corporations are still supplied exemptions from rules of law that apply to citizens.
Simply put, are we free and equal? How can we say that we are with that list? A list that is not complete of examples. How can we sincerely state that we have created a nation of freedom, liberty and equality when we don’t have every one of those attributes for all of our citizens? Aren’t we, on some level, being dishonest with ourselves and even hypocritical? “We are all free and equal, except those people!” How is that right? How is that fair? How is that what this nation was founded on – the principles we say that we all hold so dear.
Dr. King, wherever you are, the struggle goes on. Abraham Lincoln lead us through the first fight, you lead us through the second and for that we are forever grateful to the two of you. However, we have let you down. We have failed you. We have not fulfilled your wonderous dream. All Men and Women, regardless of ethnic background, color, language, or sexuality are not considered equal – saying anything otherwise is being dishonest, or worse, blind to the truth.