July 4th was always one of my favorite holidays growing up. I love the family time and fun and invitation to consider freedoms. I’ve always known that not everyone in our country enjoys those freedoms equally, but it’s become far more apparent in recent weeks and months. This year, it feels impossible to set aside the lack of freedom for so many in celebration of a declaration of freedom for a few.
But with our privileged vacation time off for the holiday, I want to use it for good, instead of just ignoring it and leaving it for just plain personal time to get lost in laundry and reruns.
Working to Change Ideals of Freedom into Freedom For All
I continue to firmly and devotedly believe in those ideals of freedom, even if we’re still far from applying them equally to all. To quote James Baldwin, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
I do love our country. I believe in principles of democracy and freedom. And I recognize that though I’m a woman of color, I haven’t come close to experiencing the separation from freedom that so many of my Black brothers and sisters endure each and every day. I recognize that women and immigrants and the elderly and the poor are not yet fully free. For our family, we’re choosing to use the holiday this year as a reminder of and opportunity to pursue freedom for all, as opposed to a glorification of incomplete freedoms for the select.
After all, declaring and pursuing freedom yet unachieved have always been central tenets of the 4th. The day represents a commitment to act. No one had yet acquired independence on the 2nd or the 3rd or the 4th of July, 1776. The day serves as a reminder to act and to work toward a yet unwritten future. We make that same commitment today – to declare and pursue freedom on behalf of those who still do not fully enjoy it. Here are some ideas for what families can do.
July 4th Activities: How Families Can Pursue Freedom for All this July 4th
- Read stories of Black history, as well as stories of indigenous and people of color communities, to see everyone as human and deserving of equal freedoms. (This book is one of my favorites.)
- Freedom is not being overrepresented in health problems due to systemically poor healthcare. Colonialism has severely affected and disadvantaged Native Americans. Their extreme distress in relation to COVID-19 is largely due to this oppression. Support them by donating to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief fund. (And learn some more about the Navajo Nation’s history, too.)
- Freedom is being able to live in a country free from violence and terror. Donate to RAICES to support immigrants and refugees in their search for freedom.
- Freedom is being able to choose to work toward owning property. As you barbecue in your home, consider those who have been affected by oppressive laws or unwritten racism prohibiting them from owning property. Discuss your privilege in being permitted to own property.
- Freedom is being able to celebrate what is unique about you. Try out this apple activity about recognizing differences in a positive light.
- Freedom is not having people unwittingly oppose you. Take an implicit bias test or a privilege test.
- Freedom is having an equitable starting point. Set your kids up for a footrace. Before starting, give them head starts based on any number of arbitrary advantages (e.g., wearing a blue shirt, have short hair, likes apples, etc.). Ensure at least one child starts far ahead of the others, and have a discussion on privilege.
- Freedom is school representation. Find out the percentage of BIPOC educators at your school. Find out your school’s plan to increase that percentage, and continue to follow up.
- Freedom is schools not surrounding you with literature and authors that harm you. Contact your school administrator to request that teachers eliminate Dr. Seuss from classrooms across the school. (Here is information on why.)
- Freedom is true public safety, without fear of bodily harm. Make a phone call to any of the many police departments and representatives to prosecute police officers responsible for murdering Black people.
- Freedom is knowing publishers are hearing, including, and sharing your experience. Support a BIPOC author by pre-ordering an upcoming book to signal interest to publishers.
- Freedom is being able to openly speak about causes that are important to you, and action you will take. Talk to an extended family member about how you are planning to use your privilege to help dismantle white supremacy, and encourage them to do the same.
- Freedom is having representatives who accurately communicate your views. Email a Congress member to support the Coronavirus Immigrant Family Protection Act to provide pandemic aid to immigrant families.
- Freedom is not being unnecessarily detained and getting sick because of it. Sign a petition to release immigrants at the border due to COVID-19.
- Purchase copies of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? for your school administrators or teachers.
Talk to an older relative and have a genuine conversation about thoughts and opinions, not just superficial commentary. (This is a great resource to document those stories.)
Make masks for refugees, grocery store employees, public transportation employees, and other frontline workers, especially in low-paying positions
- Learn about why Juneteenth is more often an important day to remember freedom in Black communities than July 4th. (Here are some resources from black voices to learn about Juneteenth.)
- Freedom is having the media share an accurate version of your story. Go through this activity to analyze an article from a news outlet for racial or other bias.
- Freedom is being able to exercise your right to protest safely without being arrested and held without due cause because you cannot make bail. Donate funds for bail for protestors.