This past Independence Day marked 246 years of American independence from the British Crown. As I watched the bombs bursting in air over the skies of Uptown Charlotte from the balcony of one of the condo towers in the area, I went into deep thought on this celebration of freedom. Especially as it concerns Black slaves who, unfortunately, weren’t free on the day America declared its freedom.
I thought about me. I thought about my family. I thought about my fellow Black friends and acquaintances. I thought about their families and the millions of Black Americans who call this country home. A country that, through most of its 246 year existence, did everything it could to denigrate, demean, and dehumanize people like me.
However, through all of the years of hurt and strife, we’ve come to a point in history where Black Americans have access to relatively more opportunities than ever before. We have access to the finest schools, the most lucrative careers, and even opportunities to build generational wealth for our descendants to enjoy. Many Black Americans will argue that compared to where we were, we are absolutely free. No [certain] demographic can stop us from reaching our full potential! And guess what? I agree! I’m not in chains anymore! I can run and live my best life!
But check this out…
While I’m running…they’re flying.
Yeah, I’m free. But how free? Slavery may not be a thing anymore. But there are things other than chains that can hinder certain communities from reaching their full potential. I’m not a victim. But I’m not a beneficiary neither. In a land where freedom and opportunity abounds, we must consider that there are degrees of freedom. While this may remind you of the statistical term, in this context, freedom for one is not the same freedom for all. Social and economic evidence suggest that certain subgroups enjoy higher degrees of freedom and opportunity than others. Research studies have shown that race, just as often as gender, can play a significant role in the earning potential of Black and Brown individuals in the United States. What’s more, educational attainment also varies in communities where economic disparities exist. We see the barriers to success surround us every day. However, what makes my heart hurt even further is that we’ve become so accustomed to living with these barriers, that many of us (in our own communities) refuse to acknowledge that they exist. In some ways, that lack of acknowledgement is a barrier in itself. I believe that in order for us to comprehensively undermine social and economic barriers, we must stand united against those things and people that seek to ensure their successes at the cost of others’ defeat.
Striving to reach one’s maximum potential is often difficult in a place that used to divide entire cities based on the skin color of those that lived there. And as we inch closer to the close of the twenty-second year of this new millennium, I ask that if you find your skin blessed enough to be kissed by the sun, look around you. Notice the inequities that exist all around you. Notice the ever-widening gap between those that have versus those that have not. Notice the challenges that are automatically assigned to you simply because of the color of your skin. Then ask yourself…are you truly free?