This morning, as I made my way to the Farmer’s Market, from the top of the hill overlooking the skyline of Durham, I gazed up at the tables and chairs on the roof top deck of the new 27-story building downtown. A thought passed through my mind: “‘Separate’ is inherently unequal.” (U.S. Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.)
In America, we used to segregate based on color. Sometimes gender. Everywhere by cultural mores and in some places, like my home state of North Carolina, those mores were enforced by law. Today, we separate based on wealth. Again, everywhere by cultural mores and in some spaces enforced by law. Today those laws are known by names such as loitering, trespassing, and theft. This separation/segregation based on wealth is ubiquitous and most acutely felt in the fields of housing, medical care, criminal justice, finance, and governance, and by most persons of color.
To say that America is equal for all so conditioned to work hard implies a well-lubricated ‘social mobility’ is also equally available to all. But does anyone actually believe that a white man of the middle class has just as difficult of a time making it in America as a black woman of material poverty? One can make twice as many mistakes, the other work twice as hard, and one will almost always end up better off than the other. The fact that I don’t have to tell you which one only confirms my point.
That access and rights, rather than a starting point, are an outcome of pulling on one’s boot straps is also a direct contradiction to the American credo that all persons are created equally and are entitled to certain inalienable rights such as Life (e.g. good health), Liberty (e.g. freedom of movement), and the pursuit of happiness (e.g. material security, self-expression, contentment, joy). ‘Conditional’ is inherently not inalienable. Furthermore, to say that all persons are actually unequal, and that everyone receives as only their abilities determine, and nothing more, as many so-called American “conservatives” suggest, is as un-American in mindset, and as short-sighted of context, as one can become.
The inalienable right to equality is a fundamental aspect of the credo of the American nation as well as of Moses, the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus, St. Paul, Buddha, and Islam. In Western civilization, we often summarize this state of equality as the Golden Rule and the Greatest Commandment. This credo includes equality and universal access regardless of race, gender, or wealth.
Those who chase the dollar participate daily in the new Jim Crow of “Wealthy only welcome here.” One may wish that everyone were as ‘white’ as they are, and as ‘successful,’ one may pity others for their misfortune, and even tithe to mitigate the troubles, and their own discomfort, but the fact is that those above the median in income and wealth are the pillars who uphold the new cultural mores of separate and unequal. The tipping point for justice in this country lies within your cohort.
No need to feel bad or guilty, however. This particular cohort are not the most culpable as they do just as everyone else has done and as everyone is taught. That ignoble honor belongs to those in the industries of marketing, entertainment, and religion who lead us to believe that luxury, laziness, prosperity, and power, or at least a little influence, are the outcomes, the corruption, we should all strive for.
Please, stand in the gap, join a quiet revolution of the heart, and break this addiction to money. Our planet, our peace, and our spirits are suffering because of it. Voluntarily spend less, earn less, burn less (gas and electricity), work hard to serve people and planet, and own as little, rather than as much, as you can. This is the path which we know by the names freedom, liberation, salvation, peace, shalom, and equality for all including you; regardless of who you may be. Please join. Many have and there is room for many more. Blessings to you and to all those you love.
The title for this piece came after the piece was written. It was said by a member of the staff at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park who was telling me to leave while I was there to perform the blindfolded hugs demonstration. He said only paid sponsors were allowed and I had not paid. He said it in such a way to let me know that no amount of money would be sufficient to permit this free demonstration.