The 4th of July is right around the corner. Americans across the country are breaking out the barbecues, stocking up on red, white, and blue paraphernalia, and trying to find the best vantage point from which to view the fireworks. (I recommend finding a friend who lives in a tall apartment building and hanging out on their roof.)
Now, I love a celebration as much as anyone, but I think it’s important that we remember that, much though we’d like to deny it, oppression is still a very present issue for many people. So as we get ready to celebrate our varying degrees of independence, it’s important to remember both the progress we’ve made and how far we still have to go.
One of America’s tenets is religious freedom. Which is great—the history of religious oppression is long and bloody and horrible. But a couple days ago, the Supreme Court ruled on the Hobby Lobby case, stating that some small corporations have the right to enforce their owners’ religious beliefs on their female employees by denying them insured birth control. That sounds a lot like oppression to me.
In 1865 America’s Civil War ended, emancipating the millions of people of African descent who had been held as slaves since the country’s inception. Now we all know that wasn’t the end of the story—the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s, and all of the ensuing repression are still relevant topics today. In May, Ta-Nehisi Coates published his essay “The Case for Reparations,” in which he argued that the economic underpinnings of slavery have been reinforced and perpetuated in the ensuing years to prevent black Americans from amassing wealth. Job discrimination, educational discrimination, housing discrimination, are all still very present issues that oppress black Americans. And, of course, other races are also subject to oppression; think about how adamantly people argue on immigration issues—do you think they’d argue half as hard if race weren’t involved?
Women’s suffrage was huge—suffragettes protested, picketed, argued, and went on hunger strikes, all for the right to have their voices heard, to cast their ballots and to play a role in the future of the government whose laws they obeyed, whose taxes they paid. Yet today, women are objectified right and left. Think about the media— it is a huge force in modern culture, yet from 2002-2012 women directed only 4.4% of top 100 box office films. This is not about women’s inability to direct. It’s about the oppressive culture of the media .
So Happy 4th of July! Let’s celebrate the independence that we have, and remember where we still want to go.
Images courtesy of teenswithpots.wordpress.com, Carlos Javier Ortiz at theatlantic.com, DangApricot at wikipedia.com, and huffingtonpost.com.