The Politics of Progress and the Level Playing Field

(AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
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Everyone says that they honor justice, but no one wants to give up the upper hand for the sake of American equality


It seems these days, everyone is talking about the push for peace and equality.


It is not much of a surprise. Just as we witnessed during the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th Century, this modern-day civil rights movement is fraught with tension from varying corners of society and filled with demands from so many Americans. Just as it was decades ago when some demanded that “law and order” must be a prerequisite before progress could be made, some today denote “domestic peace before civil rights progress” without understanding that law and order must stem from a constitutional foundation for it to foster peace and advancement in America.

It is not a shock that folks are exhausted from the struggle and frustrated with the pace of resolving matters. Yet, in the alleged joint effort for peace and justice, we continue to walk in opposite directions on the conditions of race, politics, and socioeconomics. Instead of showing the world (and, at home, our children) how to accomplish American justice in the fight for what’s right, we further highlight the void of loving leadership throughout a nation that needs each other more than we care to admit.

Everyone wants peace. Most want progress. Few want partnerships with non-traditional allies. Even less want to put politics and punditry aside for the sake of being “about the work”.

The Democrats’ stone-walling of US Senator Tim Scott’s criminal justice reform bill is just one example of politics over people. Shaun King’s latest national effort is another example of activism and clickbait holding more sway than common sense actions. There are more plans to tear down structures in America than there are to fortify the best of our nation through our solid principles, using them to make improvements and rebuild trust.


Everyone is trying to figure out the best ways to create a level playing field so that the “pursuit of happiness” is no longer a path lined with road signs for some and potholes for others. Yet, no one wants to give up the perceived “upper hand” in order to pull Americans up on the path towards a greater sense of justice and peace – even as everyone has had their troubles and triumphs along the way.

Whites in America have had a complicated secular morality throughout our nation’s history. Veterans who collectively fought the twice-occurring threat to humanity from Germany in the early 1900’s allowed for the rise of the KKK to also occur twice within roughly the same period. That was complete with a march on Washington of its own during an era dubbed to be “roaring” for America. Yet, many Whites also fought against slavery in America for decades before the first shot was fired in 1861. Blacks in America have also squandered moments of morality when the nation needed leadership the most. There have been times when, collectively, African-Americans have backed the wrong moral and political leadership, flip-flopped on critical issues out of convenience, and tolerated benign statements out of popularity when a strong voice was needed. Yet, poor Blacks with no honorable rights in the 1950s and 1960s showed the world how to protest, push for reforms, and provide a better way of life in America – alongside Whites from churches and colleges alike. The Democrats were the beneficiaries of racially-motivated domestic terrorism for decades. They also were the party that elected the first African-American president as well as most of the “Black firsts” in elected office over the past 40 years. Republicans were the beneficiaries of both the “Willie Horton” and “Quota” ads. They also were the party to restore funding for the DC Voucher program each time the first African-American president attacked the program that disproportionally-benefited Black students. They were also the party that secured funding for HBCUs, a decade after President Obama cut millions of funding to those same Black colleges.


I could go on with different contrast from different groups. Perhaps it is just part of the human condition. “There is good and bad in everyone…

Yet, now more than ever, there is a need for a universal truth on justice and equality that can provide the domestic peace we need and seek – one that lives outside of political finger-pointing and the chatter of “what-about-ism”.

That is where the embrace of constitutional conservatism is needed.

The varying backgrounds, colors, religions, families, and talents will never allow America to truly have a level playing field. We were made different by a wise and loving God for a reason. However, there is a way to ensure that, within our diversity, there are protections for fairness and equality that can restore the civic institutions that are vitally necessary for the American Experiment to continue. They will not harvest transformative improvements if we ferment our need to hang onto the upper hand – whether that perceived advantage is one of culture, politics, socioeconomics, or social media status.

The modern American dynamic rewards the bullying tones that dominate the realm today, ironically in a nation whose founding documents are steeped in measures designed to temper emotions and encourage restraints via “checks-and-balances”. In a time when people are constantly trying to keep the upper hand during the hand-wringing, policy-changing times we live in, we have forgotten that we live under a Constitution that sought to give no American a true upper hand over another. We have one man, one vote. We have three equal branches of government. We have equality among the states within the higher chamber of the legislature. We have a president that is commander-in-chief, authorized by a group of 535 directly-elected representatives, and hawked for legality by a council of 9 non-politicians.


It is no wonder that we cannot secure any lasting domestic peace and justice over the years. We live in a system where we collectively pursue such items through an interplay of advantages and disadvantages, but the system was never designed to allow that to occur without much pain, much discord, and much division.  We live in a nation where freedom is an objective reality based on the Constitution or a subjective lie that puts us all on a timeline for another round of revolts — whether that is in the streets protesting as Tea Party activists, in urban communities chanting “I Can’t Breathe”, or in the annals of government bustling with unexpected leaders after 14 years of electoral shocks.

We cannot maintain “upper hands” any longer and think that things will improve. Frederick Douglass noted this reality years ago:

“This struggle…it may be both moral and physical…power concedes nothing without a demand…”

This struggle for progress can be expediated if the open hands of patriotism win over the closed upper hands that form fists of tension. Our truth in American justice and our way towards insuring domestic tranquility is held in the spirit of the Constitution. That is the only way to bring a secular cohesion that has eluded us for too long.




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