Dream Defenders

Where is Freedom?

One Hundred Sixty Five years ago, a man by the name of Frederick Douglass shared with the nation exactly what the celebration of American freedom was to the slaves who were still in chains. Mr. Douglass eloquently exposed the abject hypocrisy and privilege it took for America to collectively celebrate an independence which all of her citizens did not know personally. Although today we have our legal freedom via some constitutional amendments, we are not completely free to blindly celebrate the American Freedoms with which the date of July 4th is set to commemorate. In actuality, we still have to deal with the caging of our humanity either by the state which employs racially disparate sentencing and policing models or by the social system which still devalues those of African American heritage at every and any turn. We still have to deal with an American heritage which does not fully accept us as part of its tapestry, an America which despite the fact that the KKK and other intensely anti-Black groups carried Confederate flags for a century and a half after the official end of the Civil War, yet no connection was made between this flag and hatred. Even then, that connection is hotly debated and we must wait for our dignity to be upheld by more votes and more political posturing by politicians. We are not living in an America that values us, even if by law and technicality we now enjoy a modicum of freedom. To my earlier point about racially disparate policing models, a recent report on the American institution of police brutality is especially troubling, mentioning that a much higher amount of Blacks killed by the police tend to be unarmed. Is this freedom? By what standard? Our churches, our oldest institutions and symbols of Black autonomy and land ownership are being burned across the south like Sherman burned Atlanta. Of course no news media wants to cover this and call it how it actually is, these are generally cases of arson, even if there are one or two cases which may be caused by “natural causes” there is no natural cause on Earth which would account for the fact that 8 Historically Black Churches have been burned down in 10 days. Yet media outlets will mourn and grieve over a burned out CVS in which only commerical property would be damaged and replaced. When you burn Black churches, you are in effect burning both centres of Black community and Black hope. Yet there is no outpouring of concern for these ripple effects that no doubt will spread through the various communities which were targeted by these terrorist attacks. Is this any kind of freedom? Where is our freedom to simply be Black and be left alone? Let alone the fact that this celebration of White history and White history makers is not complemented by celebrating a Nat Turner or a Denmark Vesey on Juneteenth, which is the day widely commemorated as the day that the slaves received oral word of their recently declared freedom from servile bondage. Yet these slaves did not have any true freedom, as legal status soon returned them to an essential state of slavery as Black codes held them as property less individuals who could then be arrested for little or no reason. The police departments which evolved from slave catching patrols, further illustrate this contentious relationship between Blackness and the idea of freedom, they held the lives and freedom of the ex-slaves in their hands, just as they still do now. Jim Crow immediately followed the Black Codes, ensuring that Black people in the post antebellum South continued having little to no social mobility without the approval of White Society in America. During Jim Crow, more Confederate flags popped up in resistance to the passage of laws which were designed to integrate African Americans into the larger society, however these laws did not attempt to convey the inherent worth and value of African Americans to the larger society as was evident in the amount of lynchings, public events which inspired terror in the African American populace. Is this freedom? Even after the small victories won during the long and hard Civil Rights struggles of the 40's, 50's, and 60's Blacks who moved northward still had to fend off and deal with a special kind of institutionalized racism, namely housing discrimination as many Northern cities operated and some indeed still operate using a practice of redlining. Districting off zones of the population by race and or income, which in America is still de facto racial segregation. Is this freedom? In this America we still deal with gentrification, which speaks to the way that Black people are subconsciously viewed by many cities’ power matrixes. In many cases there are no improvements made to pockets and areas of a city with a large Black population, but the minute a large corporation or a large influx of White people move into the area, there is an immediate improvement on the conditions and facilities present. Is this freedom? So just what do you expect us to celebrate when we are still not free? What is the Fourth of July to the children and grandchildren of slaves who still feel the effects of this system? What is the Fourth of July to ex-slaves?


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