Will America Ever Reissue That Bad Check?
Sixty years ago, a brave American clergy led a March on Washington to present, in a sense, an American promissory note signed into the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to all of its citizens. But, in that defining moment of the nation’s history at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed in the renowned, “I have a dream speech,” when America’s citizens of African descent tried the cash the check at the bank of justice, it bounced. Saturday, August 26, 2023, I joined descendants and believers of the dream in the return to the nation’s capital at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and marched to Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorial, not for a commemoration but a continuation of the struggle to cash the bad check.
Like King, we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
We continue to march because while the 1963 demonstration to ‘dramatize a shameful condition’ led to the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, legislatures and judiciaries in recent times have reversed many of those breakthroughs for freedom, security and justice.
- Two years ago the Voting Rights Act Section 5 was annulled by the Supreme Court
- Two months ago our protections for university admission was reversed in the Affirmative Action case by the Supreme Court
- Laws have yet to be passed by our legislators for sweeping criminal justice reform to shield from policy brutality innocent black and brown people, or to stem the over-incarceration of the same.
- Above all, there is a rising movement to erase the racist realities of history from textbooks, yet falsely indoctrinate the next generation with the wholly false teaching that some blacks benefited from slavery.
Which of the enslaved, seared in the penetrating flames of evil did they ever ask that question? Which enslaved man or woman would ever give such an answer?
So, we have come back to the nation’s capital, 60 years later with the promissory note tendered to our ancestors in the Emancipation Proclamation in which Abraham Lincoln solemnly vowed, “And upon this act [Emancipation Proclamation], sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
So we march because the time is now to deposit our check for justice. A check that will give us, upon demand, the full benefits of liberties, justice, and the knee off our necks!
We have fought far too long for the same causes for which our ancestors marched against 60 years ago.
They marched for voting rights. We are still marching for voting rights. They marched against police brutality. We have been marching against police brutality. They marched for jobs. We march for fair living wages and jobs.
Undoubtedly, like Dr. King was asked in 1963, when will “devotees of civil rights” be satisfied? So too marchers in 2023 will be asked the same, in light of the progress today in educational, occupational and political opportunities.
But let us not confuse access with acceptance!
There is still social degradation, police violence, and economic exploitation.
It may look different today but it still spells the same – i-n-j-u-s-t-i-c-e.
Furthermore, we can never be satisfied until all God’s children can live as God intended, because long before the nation’s default on its creed, God gave humankind a promissory note that he would free us from all that would be experienced from the bondage of slavery to sin. Then one day on Calvary Jesus paid the debt on the Cross to unchain us from the burden and shackles of sin so all my live as God intended.
As I marched in the 60th anniversary, walking in the footsteps at the Lincoln Memorial of religious leaders past and present who linked faith and justice to our biblical call (Micah 6:8), and marching with God’s children – whites, blacks, Jews, Latinos, Indians, who recognize that their destiny on earth as it is in heaven is bound up with our destiny, I remembered Dr. King’s prediction, that “Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”
So as the songwriter said:
“Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before,
Christ the royal Master, leads against the foe . . .
Forward into battle, see his banner go!
Like the mighty army moves the church of God,
Christians we are treading where the saints have trod,
we are not divided, all one body we
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
And so, we march.