I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars,
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
-Langston Hughes, Let America be America Again, 1938.
There is something missing from the sacred equation that is America today. These words by one of the greatest American poets resonates with us at this very moment as if they had just been put to paper a moment ago. Their strength grows and people suffer. People suffer even more in foreign lands if that somehow could be believed.
“All men are created equal” is the promise, the sunrise that greets us and that defines America. The cornerstone of the great house that enfolds us all has been laid for these two full centuries and so many score years more and yet much of the structure remains unbuilt. There are white middle class Americans who are quick to believe what they are told about their grievances and turn them on their fellow middle class Americans to find only that the equation is yet incomplete. They will soon learn the stated mathematical rule of dog eat dog and mighty crush the weak.
The black man has been given that magic sum to complete that great equation yet the same cruel joke has been played as he has not been given the respect and aid to get the great ladder and put the sum in place for its completion: the great consummation awaited by so many to complete America.
The red man learns all to quickly that somehow he is a completely hidden part of the equation and his place in it is not even recognized as it was when the noble project began to write it all down and to build that house from that equation that is the blueprint for liberty and freedom.
And what of the immigrant who as all the rest dream the very same dream? Where are they in this greatest of all human equations? Clutching hope and finding that the welcome mat has been pulled from their feet so suddenly and is replaced with a man with gun and a club, or with people who hate and fear.
Where in that equation is the great error? Just what is the little boy or girl not putting on the great national chalkboard? Is someone not sharing as they were taught just minutes ago after recess?
Has the great teacher, our God, made some cruel mistake in constructing the equation for his children?
Why are the wealthy, those who make the claim to have solved the equation and sit back and laugh at the scene of those yet struggling trying to yet solve it so smug in their smiles and so confident in their derision? They once again make the same suggestion for completing America they have made countless times before. But to the discerning eye it is:
“the same old stupid plan of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.”
Langston Hughes came forward in 1938 and with the profundity of an Einstein stands with us chalk in hand to let us complete the equation as it was meant to be. An equation that if only the wealthy, the powerful, the selfish, the arrogant, and the hectoring few will permit the rest of the nation to complete, any one of us can step forward to the chalkboard and put in the magic symbol and sign that will complete freedom’s equation for all time.
Langston Hughes tells us in this great piece of art Let America Be America Again with these words:
“out of the rack and ruin of our grangster death,
The rape and rot of graft and stealth, and lies,
We, the people must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers,
The mountains and the endless plain
All, all the stretch of these great green states- And make America again!”