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Eloise Anderson, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and a nationally regarded welfare expert, reflects on the experiences that shaped her past and stresses the importance of eliminating divisive identity politics that threaten our future freedom.
This article was originally published by the Badger Institute and has been reposted with permission.
Every year at this time, memories of family, faith and community are in the forefront of my thoughts. For many families in my childhood neighborhood it truly was “over the hills and through the woods;” not for mine. We gathered together on Thanksgiving Day at the house in Toledo. My mother was the family matriarch. As a family we represented America’s diversity. We range in color from strawberry blond to walnut brown. Our ancestors arrived from four different continents. Our politics ran from center left to right; our religion from none to the many forms of Christianity. All the things you were not supposed to talk about we jumped right into, argued over politics and religion and which football team would win that day. Money was placed on the youngest family member who would take on the family chess champ. Then we sat down to give thanks and eat.
All was calm and quiet as each individual gave thanks for God’s good grace and the blessing of being an American. No one thought there was a better place on earth than the good old US of A. Kate Smith’s record was played. Many of those sitting around the table had lived in other countries, so they had a world view: We weren’t perfect, we were just the best.
All but two of the men at the table had served in World War II or Korea. The two who did not serve in uniform had occupational exemptions. All the adults at the table believed that the goodness of the American people and the grace of God would move the country to get rid of Jim Crow. By doing so, the country would move away from group-based identity, and merit would rule in the workplace. In my family, the universal belief was that competition and merit was best for America, and we (blacks) could compete.
This Thanksgiving, there will be no family gathering. Most of my relatives are gone, or too old to travel, or have developed their own families. As I look back, Jim Crow of those days is gone. It has been replaced with a new form of discrimination and separation—identity politics. Like Jim Crow, identity politics extinguishes the individual, erodes merit and undermines liberty. In the long run it will undermine the foundational principles of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Now, again it’s up to the good people of America and the grace of God to eliminate group-based identity and reintroduce merit in the workplace.
This Thanksgiving, thank God for America and pray that He will provide our country with the grace to continue to be the home of the free.