When I was a child and my decisions hurt myself or another person my parents would always confront me with a question of why. Often my answer would include a statement of intent. No matter how terrible the situation, I would always say my intentions were never to bring harm no matter how self serving. I could never admit to not caring about my impact because that would force me to look at myself, and sometimes I was afraid I wouldn’t like what I saw. But luckily, I had parents to tell me it doesn’t matter what your intent is. It’s about what your decisions have reaped. So, in many ways I understand the hypocrisy of American Democracy. It’s built on the same contradictions I find perplexing in us all.
But the human brain isn’t fully developed until we are 25, which would make all my rash decisions up to this point make sense. And as I get older, I finally understand why I look back on my memories as if I were recalling a different person. My frontal cortex is partly to blame, but what’s our excuse as a nation? Sure, we are an immature young country but as we reach our 245th year I cannot help but ponder what developmental delay is to blame for our current state.Yes, we are finally discussing the impact of systemic oppression. Yes, we are more diverse. Yes, I can look on TV and see a happy interracial couple selling cleaning products.
But Fredrick Douglas truly never got an answer to his question: What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?
How much progress is really being made when so much of what does or does not happen to oppressed communities relies on our oppressors ability to empathize with our experience? We are given platitudes. We are given token representation in systems that are inherently not meant to work for us. To be fair we have made SOME progress. But this day is a reminder of broken promises. It’s a deferred dream. A heartbreak that seemingly won’t heal. Mostly because we have tried to move forward blindly.
Our Founding Fathers wanted freedom, but not for everyone else.
In fact they wanted freedom so desperately that they would sacrifice the minds, bodies, and souls of the marginalized.
Our history is simply a collection of stories of people refusing to acknowledge the discord they have sown.
Freedom for the oppressed has always been given begrudgingly.
Always for the sake of the “union”.
We’ve dragged America kicking and screaming like a petulant child just in hopes it would live up to its ideals.
And as we celebrate today, we do so in hopes that our nation too (like me) will mature and put away childish things.