Are we free yet?

Are we free yet?

Do you remember when you were a young child taking family road trips to another city or state? Do you remember how you felt when your destination seemed so far away? If you were anything like me I was an impatient passenger who nagged the driver with a litany of questions, the most annoying one I recall, “are we there yet”? My driver’s reply was routinely, “not yet,” or “almost.”

I was awakened one morning having thoughts like a nagging passenger. Freedom was on my mind.

Are we free yet?

The constant refrain in my head frustrated me, not yet or almost.

Freedom will not come today, this year nor ever through compromise and fear… Freedom is a strong seed, planted in great need. I live here too. I want freedom just as you. –Langston Hughes, “Freedom” 1902-1967, Poet and Writer

Freedom manifests differently for different people. Americans in the revolutionary period carried forward to today issues emphasized of liberty from constraints–prohibition of state restrictions on personal activities, private property and protecting the individual from the authority of the state.

Black freedom will make White freedom possible. Indeed, our freedom, which we have been forced to buy at so high a price, is the only hope of freedom they have. –James Baldwin 1924-1987, Writer and Activist

On the other hand, Black Americans’ thoughts about freedom tended to focus on group justice, and freedoms to –for example, to work and receive the fruits of one’s labor, to have families, build institutions, and to determine one’s destiny.

Many suffered and died for my freedom– to walk down any street without fear of strolling on the wrong side, dine inside or out at my favorite restaurant, and shop uptown, downtown, in town, wherever I choose. I have freedom for education, to work for a living wage, live practically anywhere, wherever I can afford, and express my art and views in this forum. I don’t take any of these freedoms for granted. They have been wrought with struggle, yet, somehow I am not feeling free.

What I am feeling is the weight of suppressive conditions that continue to undergird our social and economic systems. I am feeling increasingly infringed upon. I am disappointed that we are still fighting about the variations of voter disenfranchisement, equal rights, human dignity, racial discrimination, fair employment and fair and equal pay. The self-interest of those elected to represent me is nauseating; they want me to accept a system that is unfavorable for me without protest or questioning.

Are we free yet?

My motivations are not intended to be cynical. I simply can’t escape the nagging feeling that my freedom is in jeopardy, in some things–– in all, I can’t put my finger on it. But I do know this, because we aren’t there yet, I am going to let my feelings ride.

It may be that God himself has written upon both my heart and brain a commission to use time, talent and energy in the cause of freedom. –Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1825-1911, Writer and Women’s rights advocate

The rhythm beat of discontent is the sound of freedom’s quest for human dignity on the part of oppressed people. Victimization might touch us but it will not keep us down, nor enslave us in hopelessness. The struggle for freedom has developed slowly and is not going to end suddenly. Privileged groups don’t particularly care for people knocking on their doors, but when people rise up against oppression there is no stopping point short of full freedom.

Are we there yet?

“Not yet.” “ Almost.”

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