By Jonathan Ayala
July the 4th. Independence Day. We celebrate our Independence from the British on this day. But Independence does NOT equal freedom. There is a speech from Frederick Douglass, copied word-for-word in the website teachingamericanhistory.org, which asks the question of “What to the American Slave is the 4th of July?” Here is the paragraph that both asks and answers that particular question:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
The statement above is not only true for African-American slaves during the time of Frederick Douglass, but it is also true for the Institutionalized Persons with Disabilities today, because that day reminds those people of gross injustices and cruelties that they are victims of, how institutions practice tyranny while preaching otherwise, how shouts of liberty and equality contradict the actions that are taking place, and other hypocrisies that have been taking place under the guise of Independence.
I would also like to draw attention to Frederick Douglass’ next paragraph of speech, because it also rings true:
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
This next line of inquiry is mine and mine alone. Go tell people fighting for $15/hr and people making subminimum wages while not making enough to live on a living wage that they are free. Go tell people that have been brutalized by the police just for protesting, just like Black Lives Matter, ADAPT, and the people protesting at the G20 Summit that they are free. Go tell parents of victims and potential victims of physician-assisted suicide that they and the victims are free. Go tell Institutionalized People with Disabilities that they are free. Go tell families of people murdered by cops that they are free. Because they, and many others, would prove to you that they are not free at all.