Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

E.W Jackson is president of STAND Foundation, Inc., nationally syndicated radio talk show host for The Awakening on American Family Radio, Marine Corps Veteran, 2013 Republican Nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, bishop of THE CALLED Churches, and retired attorney.

My history is part of the American story. I am an American descended from slaves, and I have a deep love and respect for my country.

One of the harshest criticisms levied against the U.S. is its history of slavery. For those on the Left, it is conclusive proof that America is a fundamentally unjust country, a racist nation. They refer to slavery as America’s “original sin,” a very misguided and inaccurate analogy.

America was not born in a perfect environment, but in the context of a sinful world. Neither Europeans nor Americans invented slavery. Slavery has been practiced by every people on every continent, and it is still practiced today in many countries, particularly Muslim nations.

The American experience must be seen in light of this reality. On this continent, a miracle occurred on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence would bequeath that miracle to me. I was predestined by God to be an American, and I will be forever grateful.

My great grandfather, Gabriel Jackson, and my great grandmother, Eliza, were slaves in Orange County, Virginia. When the Civil War ended, they were set free and became sharecroppers. They are listed in the 1880 census—Gabriel as a laborer and Eliza as a housewife. My great grandfather was born in 1798, the year before George Washington died. I am possessed of African roots, but my heritage is American. We must end the hyphenation of our identities. I am not an African-American. I am an American.

It is time to recognize that although our ancestors may have come on different ships, we are all in the same boat now. We are two and a half centuries into the journey. Some of us want to repair and strengthen the boat; others want to sink it. I am convinced that Christians are God’s stewards of this providential gift we call America. It is up to believers to move our country toward a more perfect union.

My grandfather migrated from Virginia to Pennsylvania. My father and mother met in Chester, and that is where I was born. Their marriage was over by the time my umbilical cord was cut. At the age of fourteen months, I was placed in permanent foster care with Rebecca and Willie Molet at 226 Pennell Street in Chester, near Philadelphia.

Rebecca became my “mom” and Willie, my foster father. Willie and Rebecca were Christian people who took me to church every Sunday and often during the week as well, but it didn’t take.

I felt abandoned and unwanted by my parents and came to resent my foster parents’ authority. By the age of nine, I was in absolute rebellion and impossible to control.

With a group of my friends, we formed the Pennell Street gang. We were committing petty crimes and having violent clashes with the Lamokin Street gang, whose members lived on the next street over.

We were on the path to becoming public enemies. That was my life when one of its most dramatic turning points happened. I was standing on the corner of Third and Pennell Streets in August of 1962, hanging out with my gang. My father drove up and called me over to his car.

As I reached the passenger window, I greeted him, “Hi Dad.” Getting right to the point, he said, “Son, you still wanna come live with me?” And I said, without hesitation, “Yes!” Then he said, “Well, get in.”

My life was forever changed. On that very day, I went to live with my father. His home was my home until I joined the Marine Corps in 1970.

I left fifth grade as a street kid, juvenile delinquent, and academic failure. I entered sixth grade to become an academic achiever, no longer in a gang, and no longer on the streets. After I was grown, my father explained to me that he came to a decision that if he did not take custody immediately, he would lose me to the streets and worse.

God would later use my father to help me come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is another story, but it all underscores the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. We are facing an epidemic of absentee fathers. While the problem is affecting the entire society, it is particularly acute in the black community, with 75 percent of children born out of wedlock and two-thirds of black children raised in single-parent, female-headed households.

Coming from my background—gang member, juvenile delinquent, raised in foster care and later by a single father—my life is a miracle.

I’ve served my country in the military, graduated from Harvard Law School, practiced law, written three books, have a beautiful wife, a happy marriage, three successful children, and I am a minister of the Gospel.

Things could have turned out very differently, but there are millions of miracles like mine in this great country of ours. I entered the world with many disadvantages, but I had one gigantic advantage over 95 percent of the people on earth. I was born a citizen of the United States of America—the land of freedom, opportunity, and hope. That is why I love my country.

We must reject the fatalism and divisiveness of critical race theory and Black Lives Matter, which try to convince us that America is irredeemably and systemically racist. We must reject the Left’s obsession with the past and focus on building the future.

I acknowledge the Civil Rights Movement for opening doors and hearts. However, what remains of that laudable movement is a Marxist counterfeit. Freedom opens doors. Marxism closes them. Collectivism incites tribalism, riots, and violence, but individualism inspires achievement and progress.

What made the difference for me personally was a loving father who gave me direction and discipline. My dad worked for thirty-three years at Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Chester. He was a proud, hardworking American who left school before finishing the sixth grade. Yet he raised a son who would earn a Harvard Law degree. He knew that in our country, my life could be better than his had been. That is my American story and the American dream. It is the gift of God, and it is worth defending and preserving.

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