“The struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of the people in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi — those who are most devastated by Katrina — to know that there are not equal opportunities for all Americans.”
The unfortunate snapshot of poverty exposed by Hurricane Katrina is not an accurate portrait of the equal opportunity available all across America. Carter’s comment dismisses the millions of black Americans who ran through the doors of opportunity following the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he could not resist a chance to further stir feelings of racial resentment.
Our great nation was established on a concept once thought revolutionary, yet considered by our founders as so fundamental that they described it as “self-evident.” The concept is that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Although it took America nearly 200 years to live up to that ideal, the fact is that we are a long way from the struggle. Today’s challenge is to protect equal rights and opportunity for all of us.
Carter’s comments deny the successes achieved by leaders such as President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the late U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, who was the driving force behind the Civil Rights Act, and the millions of anonymous heroes who fought for and achieved equality of opportunity for all American citizens.
Though the founders declared that all men are created equal, slavery was still permitted until 1862, when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1865, soon after the end of the Civil War, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, banning slavery throughout the entire United States. In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified, which established citizenship for all persons born or naturalized in the U.S., and guaranteed all citizens due process and equal protection under the laws. Discrimination against blacks in the electoral process still continued, and the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, stated that the right to vote shall not be denied on the basis of race.
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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