Today, as we celebrate America’s independence, the fight for the ideals the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence envisioned is once again at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness.
While separation from England was the goal — evidenced by the list of reasons for the declaration — the document represented a starting point for what the founders envisioned for the new nation.
“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.”
Thomas Jefferson wrote those words 244 years ago. And that belief — that all men and women are created equal and are gifted with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — is still elusive to many in this nation because of the color of their skin.
That line is the genesis for Black Lives Matters. It’s the backdrop of reopening the economy and the reluctance of many to not wear a simple face mask amid a global pandemic. Some argue orders to wear a mask violate the pursuit of all three promises.
To be clear, while beautifully written, the “all men are created equal” line was inevitably going to present a challenge for national leaders that followed. How can a nation whose foundational principle is equality have tens of thousands of people be measured as three-fifths of a person and deemed property?
In that regard, many of the founders understood the hypocrisy of leaving slavery untouched in 1776. Indeed, eliminating slavery was part of the initial drafts, but was removed to accommodate some Southern states and create a unanimity for independence. Historian Yohuru Williams wrote this week the passage’s removal was the “most significant deletion from the Declaration of Independence. The founders’ failure to directly address the question of slavery exposed the hollowness of the words ‘all men created equal.’”
The goal, at that time, was liberty.
For many Blacks across America, it still is.
Today is a day for celebration as it should be. It can also be a time to pause and remember the founders’ words and how far we have to go to make sure that all of us — of all colors, ethnicities, religious beliefs, genders, sexual preferences and values — are equal.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.