For the past several years, I’ve consciously chosen to reflect on the 4th of July what freedom means? What have we truly been celebrating? Some people have written about the nuance of this day, what it means for their respective groups, and I would rather let them speak about it than me.
I wanted to spend today reflecting on the irony of this independence day. In today’s moment of reckoning with our past, interrogating the legitimacy of this state amidst all of its objectively evil origins. We are at a moment where not only people are critiquing this state in an open way that is being given a more national, even global platform than ever before. The most ridiculous part about this all is that this is happening while a once in a lifetime pandemic is ravaging our nation. Of course, there does exist a collective responsibility that we have. We should be staying at home, we should be wearing masks, and yes going outside puts not just you but everyone else you ever interact with at risk.
But it is bigger than that. After spending weeks frustrated at people my age or others who completely deny through their actions the existence of COVID, it is ludicrous of me to blame them more than the completely disturbing responses across all levels of government. I believe in Dr. Ibram X Kendi’s philosophy that racist policies inform racist behaviors. And similarly, I see a complete lack of not necessarily federal, but state and local governments refusing to take the pandemic serious transfer into the behaviors of citizens. We chose to let businesses open back up to stop and refuse to pay unemployment. We chose consciously to not be prepared for pandemics because it was not viable economically. What does this say about how we are seeing this continuation of the first wave of this virus? The past three months and a half months of staying inside were completely wasted. We are worse off. And at what cost? As low income, Black and brown essential workers, and people are denied for even a test, people in my area continue to resume activities like normal. When I go out to safely support a local coffee shop and see groups of five, ten, fifteen people roaming together without masks, I steer clear and realize that we have many, many months left of this.
The way people are reflecting on this Saturday, questioning and evaluating the legitimacy of this day, questioning their biases, yet ultimately not being conscious in their behavior in the pandemic is an unfortunate reality that comes with any movement forward. It’s the irony that is in front of our faces that we sometimes simply refuse to connect. As I think about Frederick Douglass constantly the past few weeks, trying to find some way to implement his abolitionist strategies and practices into my own life, I re-read his address as I do every year on this day. I think about what we can do to build a movement that in numbers will be assembled of people far more than those directly affected by such policies. People will, as Amilcar Cabral and others have said, commit “class suicide,” give up their pleasures to fight against the institutions that harm disadvantaged people. But my worries about how to unify people in such a way when we are amidst a national denial of a pandemic are also present.
It is refreshing to see people discuss the 4th in ways I’ve gotten accustomed to the past several years. My only hope is that we can figure out a way to translate these new ideas into equitable policies. I don’t know as I did several weeks ago, where we will be in another month. But maybe that’s the magic of this movement. For the first time in a while, it feels like there is uncertainty about the continuation of injustice. That’s something I feel like Robin D.G. Kelley described as a “Third Reconstruction.” Let’s make that a reality.
Being Noah Tesfaye #138: Some Thoughts on this 4th…
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