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The Stream of Contradictions

By Sarah Birnbach

PROMPT — I will not rest until ...

Every time we start for the river of equality and justice

We deviate down a crooked jaded path,

Twisting and winding away from the core values in our

Declaration of Independence –

That all men are created equal, and entitled to

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Each time comes the confused and mingled sounds

Of Jim Crow, redlining, Tuskegee experiments,

The Emancipation Proclamation, The Civil Rights Act,

The Voting Rights Act, and the

13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

We have advanced scarcely 100 years.

We are in the midst of the noise of hopefulness,

The Black Lives Matter Movement,

The John Lewis Voting Act, The 1619 Project,

Eviction moratoriums, rent relief.

Yet the darkness of racism still hangs

Over our land,

Moving on and on.

There is yet no still clearness,

No clear path to equity.

No clear path to close the wealth gap,

Ensure equal health benefits,

Stop police killings of innocent Black people,

Ensure an equal criminal justice system.

My heart has not achieved peace.

It will never achieve peace until people see

The contradictions in our society.

We drop a fish-line of words,

“All men are created equal,”

“Liberty and justice for all,”

Into a stream polluted

By beliefs in the inferiority of certain races;

By closing our eyes to the fact that

Our nation was built by terrorism

Against its original inhabitants and

Built on the backs of slaves.

Every time I have started for the hope

Of a new day when Black people,

Brown people and White people can come together

To unite for the ideals on which we are founded,

I have floated down the stream of wishful thinking,

And while I’d love to stay here,

Curled up in my dream of a land where all of us

Will be measured by our character rather than

The color of our skin,

I am rocked, rocked by a call

To leave my zone of comfort,

Not float through my days in

Apathy or oblivion but to drop my

My fishing line into the cause

For racial justice…



Sarah Birnbach enjoys her post-retirement “encore career” as a writer and author, publishing a weekly blog on her website at She has been journaling since her teens and in 2011 she received her designation as a Certified Journal Facilitator from the Center for Journal Therapy. She is a six-time award winner in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, a two-time award winner from Bethesda Magazine, and her articles have appeared in Talking Writing, Bookwoman, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Journal, and the Michigan Jewish History Journal. Her soon-to-be-published memoir, A Daughter’s Final Gift, follows her journey through the year after her father’s death.


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