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The American Dream: Hope at Odds With Reality

April 18, 1993|ERIC PRIESTLEY | Eric Priestley, 49, of Watts, is a novelist. He is an alumnus of the Watts Writers Workshop. and

People of color have never been part of the process of law, its establishment or its implementation. It should come as no surprise to anyone that last spring's events in Los Angeles resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people and the destruction of about $1 billion in property.

We are told that the system works and we are part of the process. History tells us quite a different story.

The videotaped killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by a store owner, who was sentenced to community service. Two Samoan brothers shot 19 times in the back by Compton police. The videotaped beating of Rodney G. King by Los Angeles police. All happened in 1991. All people of color.

What does exist is a ruling class, who tell you that there is no ruling class. They will, and have, cut public education to the bone, raised taxes, voted themselves raises and used the money to send their own progeny to private schools. They have bounced checks, increased the national debt to beyond $4 trillion, and blamed the problems on welfare and the poor.

What does exist in South-Central: hopelessness, alienation, disenfranchisement and systematic oppression.

What does exist is an incongruity between what is stated in the Constitution and what is implemented in reality. What does exist is a government that pays people to create bureaucracy instead of creating jobs.

What we decide today as a nation will matter over the next century. Just as Lincoln's actions mattered in 1865. We still fight for the same things: social equality and being part of the process that determines our own destiny. It is a question of power: social, economical and political.

What does exist for people of color--for all Americans--is a fair share of the American Dream. And the historical reality is that it has never been fair to people of color.

What does exist is the question of conscience that speaks to a higher sense of scruples. Our actions now strike at the very core of what we were, what we are and what we might become and be remembered as Americans.

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