More rights, more freedom

If you want to make a point, tell a story.

At the Black History Month program Feb. 17 at AME Zion Church in Gloversville, Audrey Bowman’s recollections of in-your-face discrimination in the city in the 1940s and ’50s were particularly poignant and moving. She described being rejected as an educator by a Board of Education and as an applicant to nursing school.

Rather than dwelling on past struggles, she urged today’s youths to take advantage of opportunities she didn’t have – to get education and training and go out to find the open doors.

Her stories showed how prejudice and discrimination often take time to eliminate, even though hundreds of thousands of Americans died, were wounded or were maimed in a Civil War waged in part to end slavery.

Our nation was born on the basis of God-given natural rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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,” says the Declaration of Independence, the foundation of the American republic.

But the sad chronicle is we as people often fall short of these ideals – even when the dichotomy is obvious. All people are created equal, but not all ideas. Beliefs that have promised a utopia for one group of people at the expense of another group have caused incalculable harm.

What is good about our nation’s vision is we have the basis and mechanisms by which our faults can be amended.

No one on Earth can repay Bowman or anyone else who was denied opportunities for reasons unrelated to character and capabilities, but it’s clear that by providing people the freedoms they are entitled to makes all of us freer – and we are enriched by their talents.