Will we do this? President Biden has singled out systemic racism and called on Americans of every color to step up, to be bold, and write the next chapter in the American story. When our days are over, he said, will our children say that we gave our best?
We have now, right now, the greatest opportunity since the Civil Rights triumphs of the 1960’s to achieve breakthroughs against racism. This is the Third Reconstruction in American History. Each Reconstruction before us made progress and each time the national society that first welcomed progress tired of the struggle. Those who pushed back against progress wanted us to believe that history was over. They said and still say that we do not have to know about or act on the need for more.
Martin Luther King, Jr, never thought that way. He never understood why wrong should stand and right should be an aspiration instead of a reality. Time and again, he called on ordinary Americans of every color and origin to become engaged. He knew that justice is never given voluntarily by those who are satisfied with injustice. He knew the power that comes from those who demand change, highlight hypocrisy and never give up. John Lewis told us to “make good trouble.” Are we prepared to stand where he stood, to do what he did, to make good trouble so fairness and justice would see the light of day? In this situation, can we ask ourselves what Dr. King asked us, what John Lewis asked us, can we press now, not tomorrow or sometime, but now for the change that will ensure equal justice?
Amanda Gorman, the nation’s Youth Poet Laureate, spoke to this challenge at the Inauguration,
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
if only we’re brave enough to be it
Do we have the courage that others have offered? It’s there for us to step up and go forward if we wish to do so. Do we? That is the question, and it will remain the question until the work is finished.
by Bob Pearson
During his long diplomatic career, W. Robert Pearson, 77, was an innovative diplomat, leader and crisis manager at the top levels of the U.S. government. He was U.S. ambassador to Turkey and completed a 30-year career in 2006 with the Department of State as Director General of the Foreign Service. He is a frequent writer and speaker on diplomacy, foreign policy, Turkey, NGOs and development. Pearson served under six presidents (four Republican and two Democratic) and 11 secretaries of state. Retirement brought him to Chatham County; he lives in Fearrington Village with his wife of 45 years, Maggie. A native of Tennessee, Pearson traces his Southern lineage back more than 300 years, with ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War. Two great-grandfathers were at Bennett Place in Durham in 1865 in the last surrender of a major Confederate army.