Lack of fraternity in America

Published 7:34 pm Monday, May 29, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

Our Declaration of Independence states, “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.”

The author, Thomas Jefferson, meant these rights to apply only to white men, but today we strive to ensure them for all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity and gender.

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Where are we as a nation in our efforts to ensure these rights for all Americans?

One way of assessing our national status is to compare America today with the principles of the failed French Revolution — Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

A review of American history reveals movements forward and backward in our efforts to ensure “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In terms of liberty and equality we have made significant progress during the last 60 years, mainly based on government laws and enforcement of them.

For example, when I was a child, major aspects of our Bill of Rights and the three Civil War amendments (involuntary servitude, equal rights for all, and eligibility to vote) were regularly violated by government. Only with the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Topeka School Board did our federal government start enforcing them, beginning in 1954.

Although we still have areas for improvement, today Americans have more liberty and equality than any other people in history.

But we continue to lack a sense of fraternity. We are still far from being a body of people united and focused on achieving common goals for all. For example, from time to time violence is seen in some central cities focused on racial divisions.

What we should have learned from the last 60 years is that fraternity isn’t achieved through laws and enforcement. For example, based on the right of separation of church and state as found in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, government cannot force people to go to the certain churches. Although some small progress is being made in this area, a very large percentage of churches are segregated by race.

Hatred toward various racial groups by other racial groups is a major issue. We are far from achieving Dr. King’s dream that one day Americans will judge each other based on character, rather than skin color. Some whites hold some black Americans in low regard and in private conversations voice disrespect for those dependent on government handouts.

But there are improvement areas all around. In private conversations, some of those “black enough” voice disrespect for Asians, who have the highest per capita income of all American racial and ethnic groups. I lived in the South-Central Los Angeles and experienced up-close and personal the flames and hatred of the Rodney King riots in which nearly all businesses burned to the ground were owned by Koreans.

To achieve American fraternity and Dr. King’s dream, individual Americans must find personal ways to strive toward them. These are social issues that government action can little influence. Only through individual action can we achieve fraternity and Dr. King’s dream.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at