As millions of Americans were celebrating Independence Day within the various physical capacities embedded across the nation, I could not help but feel choked in a muzzle of falsified liberation we citizens of this country not only surrender to, but praise. I recite the annual literary antic, “Happy Fourth of July” to my peers, friends and family. This being a muttered dig at the naive walk of shame proud citizens acclaim, oblivious that it is they, we, him, her, all of us who lay fugitive as the blunt of the joke.
Human nature, as it goes, would have many individuals bask in bitter contentment. Stoically-bodied in reaction to the times, there is an inherent discomfort when one knows we, as a society, accept and hold ourselves captive to an old dictorator: ignorance. I’m no physician, but I’d assess the state of this nation’s well-being with the diagnosis of “Stockholm Syndrome.”
Often I come across comments reading:
“Our laws aren’t racist… [and to gesture so] will do nothing to help people RIGHT NOW.”
And then some more…
“How can you say one of the most diverse countries in the world is racist?”
The legislation we uphold from our founding fathers is outdated. Metastasizing discriminatory roots into local, state and federal legislation. These policies have systemically rendered differences in the opportunities marginalized populations have to achieve optimal health that leads to unequitable but avoidable health outcomes.
The catch-22 with the “American Dream” is how the basis of our democracy has been cheated by inundated legislative barriers that fraudulently leave gaps in vulnerable populations. There are no freedom bells ringing with qualified immunity which not only protects police officers who are in violation of upholding constitutional obligations, but other governmental figures within executive branches as well. It’s not true that America has the highest incarceration rates in the world, but it’s heinously driven by incentives in fiscal gain. The declared “War on Drugs” from President Richard Nixon was a racially motivated stunt instigated by Nixon to debilitate the voice of the Black community in response to the Civil Rights Movement.
One of the most prominent examples of legislative discrimation is through legalized methods of housing segregation in neighborhoods that stemmed from “old practices” of redlining, de facto practices to de jure segregation laws and the business practice of blockbusting; these generationally inhibit social mobility, which affects the majority of minority communities, especially in urban areas. With approval from the U.S. government, banks and real estate agencies were allowed to deny individuals and families the opportunity to deny mortgages or loans to buy homes based on ethnicity or residence; others would purposely admit racial minorities into majority white neighborhoods to manipulate the housing markets. Because neighborhoods ensure access to more resources and education, the effects of these policies are still integral to the wealth gaps amongst the communities of color and different forms are still practiced today.
Neighborhoods are attributed to quality of education, job opportunities, nutritional resources (i.e. food swamps and food deserts), access to healthcare and more. Since schools are funded through property taxes, wealthier neighborhoods get a greater share and as a result are able to access better schools, teachers, scholastic resources, tueleage, extracurriculars, etc. The children from lower income and marginalized neighborhoods are prone to more barriers within social, economic and environmental environments than those from wealthier neighborhoods. Urban planning benefitted these white neighborhoods with these segregated and abandoned neighborhoods proximally exposed to toxic chemicals from factories, toxic house paint, crumbling infrastructure, increased distance to quality or affordable nutrition and water crises as in the case of Flint, Mich. This has perpetuated environmental injustice with higher incidences of cancer, increased infant mortality, chronic disease, etc.
This is not to ignore the valiant strides being made for change in the sociopolitical atmosphere of this country. But we cannot simply see something and say something through performative social media activism if we don’t have the historical ocular accountability that encapsulates the expression of systematic oppression. We must hold our academic institutions, religious organizations, occupational settings, recreational centers, health clinics, local offices and the federal government accountable. The public policies instilled within this nation bring about the public’s mental and physical health.
How do we ensure this? We educate ourselves, vote in elections, lobby for our rights and become allies in support of those who need it the most. While we the people are stakeholders in the betterment of our own individual lives, it is not just our own in the undertaking. To ensure social, economic and environmental justice, it’s important to educate ourselves on the individuals running within our local communities, state legislation and federal government: our legislative vendetta.
So sure we’re free from British rule, but, dear readers, this was 244 years ago. Forge new victories and declare missions of change. The only truth self-evident is the obtuse bliss many take in accepting our current state — in the fog it is compared to the brightness it could be. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a guarantee, but it can be as long as we step up and challenge our understanding of the world around us. It is mankind's take to negligent complacency that will lead to the demise in our modern day bureaucracy.
Izza Ahmed-Ghani can be reached at email@example.com.