How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow. How long? Not long.
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
– Dr. Martin Luther King
Words uttered from the lips of optimism; falling upon mute ears. Since 1619, people of color have pondered the question of how long is long? These oblivious souls, later to be referred to as chattel would be ripped from their homelands. Further to be cast upon the shores of a young nation whose lust for their unpaid labor would become its shame. In return, their payment would consist of a 398 year old love letter. There would be no 40 acres and a mule.
Dear People of Color,
I need you. I love the riches you generate for me and my family. However, I regret opportunity and justice is denied to you.
The disenfranchised weathered this storm through many eras. Those eras include slavery, reconstruction, civil rights, segregation, integration and gentrification. If Dr. King was alive, I would be hard pressed to ask him how long is long? Perhaps the answers are hidden in plain view of these hallowed documents.
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish JUSTICE, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and JUSTICE for all.”
There it is, in bold print the word justice. You read it. What did the framers of our democracy mean when they penned justice for all? For justice, we wait, we cry, we pray and we die.
The question remains, how long will it take for us to witness justice served for all? How long must we witness the public executions of people of color? How long must we watch their executors go free? How long must we kneel, stand and fight for justice? How long will we host empty conciliatory and unity talks?
How long must justice elude us? Without justice there is no democracy. Without justice, a society has no real freedom. Without justice, you have a country that wraps its racism up in its banner.
In many ways, people of color are the original dreamers. They never asked for welfare, projects, handouts or handups. What these dreamers expected was a country of inclusion and free from systemic injustices. What they asked for was an opportunity or a leveled playing field so they could become viable partakers of the American dream.
America, it’s been almost 400 years since your last love letter. We are still waiting for an answer to the question of how long is long?