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JULY 1, 2020

“We all came in on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. made that matter-of-fact observation during the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s. Indeed, the ship that is this nation has a diverse passenger manifest, which is one of the most wonderful attributes of America. With the exception of Native Americans, all of us came from elsewhere, with diverse ideas and beliefs. But all have come together under the words of The Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal and equally entitled to life, liberty, and happiness. And yet, it took more than 250 years for that belief to apply to all of our citizens, regardless of race.

Slavery existed in America from 1601 until June 19, 1865. President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address returned to the central statement of the Declaration of Independence rather than to the Constitution because he recognized the latter had been interpreted to allow slavery. The Constitution was amended by the blood of the civil war. Slavery was abolished. People were now people, regardless of skin color. But Jim Crow laws and the Klan followed for another hundred years. Laws often lead the way, but learned fear and systemic racism are stubborn.

And while “men” was used in our founding documents in the generic sense, meaning both men and women, it did not fully include women. Our most precious political possession in a democracy is the right to vote, and for that vote to be counted. It is baffling to us today that women were denied the right to vote for another 55 years after the abolition of slavery in 1865. Women’s suffrage finally prevailed in 1920. Americans should celebrate that particularly this year, the 100th anniversary of women securing their right to participate in our governance.

Racial discrimination has had a devastating impact on other people of color in this country, including Latinos, Asians, Muslims, and Native Americans. The common wrong visited upon all of these people has been a denial of equality, and often, any opportunity at all to partake of the American Dream. And as all of us, and the world, have seen in the graphic unjustified killings in recent weeks, discriminatory systems have denied equal justice under the law to large segments of our society. The resulting protests have made progressive demands for justice and equal opportunity. People of all races, creeds, ages, and genders have joined the protests. Rev King also once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Many are referring to these events as an “inflection point,” meaning that something is bending. If this moment is a further bend in the arc to justice, it must be grasped by people of goodwill and not allowed to snap back.

The mission & vision of the Community Foundation for Oceana County promotes the bend towards justice and equal opportunity. The Foundation exists to enhance the lives of the people of Oceana County by leading, promoting, and channeling philanthropy to connect resources with needs. We envision a community where everyone has access to resources to thrive.

If you are looking to current events and the bend toward opportunity and justice, and to what you might do to help reach those goals in our community, please look to the Community Foundation for Oceana County. Our board has committed to lead community dialogue around systemic racism to promote understanding, inclusion, and equality. We are here to serve everyone in our county.