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“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I recently chatted with an African-American friend who relocated from Evanston to a small town in Mississippi. She told me that she and others were organizing a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) there. Wow! I was impressed and gave her my congratulations and best wishes. My friend told me that Mississippi has changed, but there are still African Americans in her area who are afraid to be associated with the NAACP. I can understand that. Mississippi is still Mississippi, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s one of the states in our “nation, under God” to which I don’t plan to move anytime soon.

But Mississippi doesn’t hold the patent on scaring African Americans and others out of their share of “liberty and justice for all.” A friend related a conversation she recently had with an African-American woman (whom I shall call Blithe) who works for an Evanston organization. Blithe said it was true that the organization for which she worked was bigoted, and it discriminated against African Americans, but that was the nature of the organization and things were not going to change.

Bigotry was the nature of the beast. Blithe’s attitude and attempts to discourage African Americans from trying to affect change makes the matter even worse. Sadly, Blithe shares her pessimistic, do-nothing-to-address-the-problem attitude with many others for whom “liberty and justice” are just empty words. And Blithe and others will plant their seeds of hopelessness in their children, depriving them also of their will to affect change.

No one has said that change is easily attained. Our country is a better place because of the people who believed in and struggled to gain “liberty and justice for all,” people who believed in making the meaning of “all” mean exactly that. Everybody will benefit from positive change – socially, psychologically and economically. But you have to believe in change to go after it.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass, (African) American writer and abolitionist (1817-1895).

“If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.” — Marian Anderson, (African) American opera singer (1902-1993).

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...