The Fourth of July means something different to me than celebrating our freedom from British colonial rule and the wars we’ve fought in the name of that freedom. To me, the 4th should be Interdependence Day dedicated to abolishing ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) and ending money bail. To me, the 4th is a day of remembrance and recommitment.
On Interdependence Day, I remember what my freedom costs.
I remind my white self of the final verses of the Star Spangled banner that celebrate slavery, and the direct line from slavery to mass incarceration today. I remind my white self that when my ancestors immigrated to the US their Welsh, Scottish and Irish cultures disintegrated in the American Melting Pot so they could be welcomed into the white category, and the color line that has consistently defined US immigration policy. I also remind myself and my friends that Black, brown, native and white people organizing for collective liberation is a deep and rich tradition that we can find our place in right now.
On Interdependence Day, I remember how many people still are not free.
Families are separated and people are caged throughout the US in detention centers and prisons. Their existence is criminalized and their imprisonment is militarized. And I can feel it in my mirror neurons the truth of that famous quote by Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
Lazarus, by the way, was the poet who wrote the poem The New Colossus, part of which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty. You know it: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” And it’s important to note that at the time the poem was written, the “Mother of Exile” was explicitly welcoming European immigrants, many of whom were not classified as “white” upon arrival. But the ways white supremacy relies on expanding the definition of whiteness is another blog post for another day.
On this Fourth of July, You and I may not be in a cage at the border with no idea where our children or our parents are, or fearing that might be our tomorrow. We may not be losing our livelihoods in a jail cell while awaiting trial because we can’t afford bail. We may not be serving unconscionably long sentences in prison because of a corrupt justice system making money off our imprisonment. But our hearts are. Our moral conscience is. As long as we as a society allow human beings to be caged, there is no freedom for anyone.
It’s kind of hard to enjoy a 4th of July BBQ on a lovely sunny afternoon with meat and veggies on the grill when we think about the people who are in cages right now, huh? And that’s why the 4th must also be a day of recommitting.
On Interdependence Day, I recommit to using my freedom in ways that liberate others.
I want you to use this day to recommit too. In a country that that places as high a value on individualism as it does independence (for some), it’s so easy get stuck in the cycle of lamenting the seeming inefficacy of the individual act and lambasting the overwhelming power of systems of oppression. Instead though, in recognition of the legacy of collective organizing that we can become part of right now, I want you to declare interdependence. Rally your squad at your 4th of July BBQ and encourage them to give with you the fruits of their freedom so that others can also be free. Help them get involved right now in the #AbolishICE and #EndMoneyBail movements.
Start with These Two Actions on July 4th
- Take a moment at your BBQ (or whatever you're doing this weekend) to pass around a device so people can donate to the National Bailout Fund.
- Get your friends on board and invite Mijente to your city for the Chinga la Migra tour.
And then commit to checking in with your friends and family the following week, and the week after that. Together, with consistency, we are capable of so much more than we are independently.