America celebrated its birthday in the most American of traditions: violence.
Weary. You, me, all of us. The heartache is as unending as the ways in which we find to hurt one another. This is America.
“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July,” Frederick Douglass said in a speech on July 5, 1852. “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.”
A domestic terrorist fired more than 70 rounds with a high-powered rifle into an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill. He killed at least seven people and injured more than 30. Officers apprehended 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo III. They took him in alive.
On Sunday, we saw footage of the police killing of 25-year-old Jayland Walker. Police formed a firing squad after he fled his car, unarmed, on foot following a high-speed chase due to a traffic violation. They fired some 90 rounds, covering him in 60 wounds and leaving cuffs on his body even after they shot him to death.
Walker was Black. Crimo is not.
On Sunday, we saw a breakdown of the Vera Institute of Justice study, showing that Boston police stop Black drivers at 2.4 times the rate of white drivers — and 3.8 times for non-traffic-safety violations.
The violence that is racial bias. We know what it looks like.
Six teens were involved in the robbery that led to the killing of another teenager in Quincy. Only one of the teens was Black. Jaivon Harris. He did not pull the trigger. He had no weapon. And he is the only teenager who has been arrested thus far. He’s been held in solitary confinement.
White supremacists marched through Boston on Saturday. At least 100 members of Patriot Front took to the downtown streets. “Reclaim America,” their banner read. Police are now investigating reports that they attacked a Black man as they spread their hate through the city.
Friday, in a report by VICE, we learned the Farmington Hills Police Department, just outside of Detroit, uses images of Black men in hoodies and backwards caps holding guns as shooting practice targets. A Boy Scout troop discovered it during a tour. They claim they have white targets, too.
A week ago, the city of New Haven released video footage of Richard “Randy” Cox Jr. The 36-year-old Black man was handcuffed and not secured in the van police put him in. He flew headfirst into the wall of the van. He asked for help over and over. No one took him seriously. He was chastised, told to sit up, told he’s not even trying to get up, and dragged out of the van. Basically, he’s tossed into his cell.
Now, Cox is partially paralyzed. He needs a ventilator to breathe. Even after Freddie Gray and so many others, the system continues to system.
There is no refuge here. We do not know safety. Perhaps it’s why we struggle with asylum.
It was also a week ago that 53 migrants were found dead 150 miles north of the US border with Mexico. More than a dozen survivors, a third of them children, were rushed from the abandoned tractor-trailer to nearby hospitals. They sought solace.
Last week, SCOTUS ruled that the Biden administration has the right to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy, a Trump-era xenophobic measure forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico until the results of US immigration cases are determined. A win? Kind of. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce Title 42, the façade of an emergency health order that immigration officials use to reject migrants. People perish trying to live freely because we know no grace.
People will keep crossing the border in hopes of an American dream we’ve made a nightmare. Women and people who can get pregnant will continue to seek abortions despite SCOTUS denying their rights to one. And in both cases, people will die.
We let folk fight to live and die as tradition. Brittney Griner understands this, as sure as she wrote to President Biden.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,” the Phoenix Mercury center penned in a letter to the president. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
She voted for the first time in 2020. She believed in our possibilities to be better.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” her letter said. “Please do all you can to bring us home...I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore.”
She was in Russia to play basketball. She’s being inhumanely held and accused of carrying hashish oil. A Black queer woman is in a Russian prison. They treat her like an animal. She is 6-foot-9. Russian officials put her in a tiny cage to travel to and from court.
Dehumanized there. Dehumanized here.
Who can we be, as Americans, when we unbind ourselves from violence? How can we stretch freedom into a reality to water and grow when we acknowledge the violent seeds that bore us?
Griner, like me, like so many of us, holds on to hope. Liberty is possible. The dream of us, Americans, is possible.
But first, justice and restoration.
How free, how beautiful, how possible America can be when we are its citizens instead of its victims.