Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

The Statue of Liberty is stunning. As an engineer and an artist, I marvel. However, as a Person of Color and an immigrant, it holds an extraordinarily duplicitous distinction for me.

She is America’s grand chef,  adding diverse ingredients to her melting pot, dishing out a bowl of “welcome” to those who would brave her shores.  However, as a Person of Color in America, experiencing a clouded confluence of historical and racial factors, and divergent realities, this beautifully aged  sculpture shifts form, from the cooper embodiment of freedom to a garish specter of political expedience. A tool opposing the freedom she once represented.

Her sight produces a tumultuous and unsettling feeling in me.

Every politician gets a piece, pimping her out to sell their message. ‘Merica. They’ve turned her out for political gain. When does her servitude end? How far is her release?

On my last trip to NYC, I got a chance to visit her and pen the following:

Liberty’s Burden

Cemented on an island of slaves,
Where she learned to behave,
Trading silence for a Green Card,
Walled Streets keep her etched message at bay.
Cries of freedom from asphalt fields,
Where my brokered ancestors were lost in trade,
Behind the concrete mountainside,
Where Garner died,
He choked on freedom, her Blue defenders say.

When my shrouded azure eyes,
Expressed themselves in my daughters’ DNA,
Revealed a shared story of violation, that we hide,
an unspoken secret of the modern slave.
The promises I make to her in trade,
for coinage and salvation
Stained Greenbacks from a lying nation,
Celestial acres and a mule,
Trumpet a metaphorical revelation,
that the Verdigris master who we idealize,
is herself, a slave.

Unspoken endorsement of sacred text sustaining our oppression,
Imposing the artificial borders that restrict our connection,
Unable to scream about our lives’ intersection,
She enforces her master’s series of “distinguished” restrictions.
From constitutional fallacies to dogmatic lies,
Eliciting fear of the commonality we call humanity.
While othering the nonconforming profiles of anyone not White,
Cis-Gendered, and Christian,
Success that is mostly chattel driven,
As the Overseer binding free speech to inaction, restriction.

“Give me your tired”, they’ve been here I say,
But address the innocence you’ve allowed slain in His name.
Torching morality, telling me I am complicit,
because I do not listen,
Lying by omission,
That we are a Nation that always refuses,
from civil war to civil rights,
we have died undoing your Master’s Restrictions.

Can we set free the one slave that America’s Beast would save to maintain the unraveling shroud of progress, she once represented to “some”?
Evidence her crown’s debasement into talking points for politicians,
Now a galvanized symbol of our accepted restriction,
Then strip away rays from her pluralistic benediction,
Until the day, we all bear the torch of her lost mission.

Marie, one day you shall be free.

Note: Marie Bartholdi is the person the Statue was modeled.

Liberty’s Burden, When Can We Set The Statue Free?

The Controversial Duckling

Fourth with Zach (3 of 16)

Sometimes it feels like I just don’t belong. I can talk to colleagues that are Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc., and except for that whole atheist thing, they understand me. Controversy free. We are separated by language, but on issues of equality, they usually find a way to understand. They may not agree, but on occasion they get it, even the church folk. However, that whole atheist thing can be a problem. Its a big hurdle for many of them to overcome, so I’m usually dismissed, then dammed on issues of morality, even though we seek similar strides in freedoms. That one controversial thing, oblongs me into the clichéd peg that just won’t fit.

Then when I find myself in a sea of atheists, I experience a similar phenomenon. I can talk using a shared language of exonerated godlessness, and except for that whole black thing, they understand me. Controversy free. Yet, in the same vein, part of who I am is denied, leaving me less than whole, and somehow, that one controversial thing, makes me again, not fit.

Circumnavigating those repellant poles makes it hard to find the right crew to flock with, especially when I really still am a duck. My identity overlaps, intersects, and is unique, but what I share with both I can not bridge. Hence, it is my hold on both, that takes flight.

What I learned during my initial hazing into atheism is that being Black really wasn’t an issue. Not entirely. It helps. And as long as you’re willing to graduate from Invisible to Token, it shows others that the community is inclusive, somehow diverse, and better than the gaggle that we so desperately fail to not reflect.

But when I consciously ‘state’ that I am Black, then the problem appears, ruffling every stunted, malformed YouTube jockey’s quill. I’m indicted, labeled as complicit in America’s racism, even though in honesty, I am a mere second and a-half party observer.  My legacy isn’t rooted in America’s Slave trade, its rooted in the French. I am an immigrant, who’s port of entry was by way of America’s financial slave hub, New York City, not the urban plantation.  I am Sowell’s mythic model minority realized.

My family escaped the preexisting narrative of the American Negro, having missed decades of Black devaluation, medical experimentation, forced segregation, and concrete housing reservations, where hunger continues to be used as a political tool to feed voting booths. I have not land, nor direct ancestral loss in this nation, nor am I a recurring generational victim as some suggest. Of those that would be thankful for the sacrifice of the fallen I am one. But again, I’m different, because I would not silence myself from the observable injustices. And my pride is not at stake, neither is my hypersensitive nationalism.  In retrospect, perhaps it is the fear from those injustices befalling me, that propelled my own successes. It is that unspoken choking hand that provides the muted responses of the voices of the millions like me, who say nothing against evil. Or worse, it lends itself to the megaphone of those that tout their own rugged independent successes as proof that no other disadvantages exist. Evidence be damned. Their dissonance fed by the same watering hole that gluts the other’s faith.

“If you’re a white, evangelical, Republican, you are less likely to think race is a problem, but more likely to think you are a victim of reverse racism. You are also less convinced that people of color are socially disadvantaged… This dilemma demonstrates that those supposedly most equipped for reconciliation do not see the need for it. – Barna

I sully my hands delivering a truth that I do not own, as a social justice sojourner, gifting in good faith responses that should’ve bridged understanding. And for  my remuneration, I’m called a sell out, again.  Damn, they sure as hell can make it clear that my kind really isn’t wanted here, yet in the same sputtering breath, stand as dumfounded cocks wondering why they can’t seem to attract a stray feather. You can’t say you want diversity, then do everything in your power to prevent it.

I recently did an interview with Seth Andrews, The Thinking Atheist (link below). We covered everything from race, religion, and other things in the year of the Trump. Nothing too controversial, except for the community that amusingly hijacks Seth’s moniker as their own. It took less than 24 hours for the comment section and my inbox to show me why so many Atheists of Color don’t feel welcomed in “this” community. I’ve spent 5 years of my life traveling the country giving talks addressing the recurring question “How can we make the Atheist community more diverse?”

And I think I’m ready to append that talk with a bit of  show and tell. You may not agree with my observations, everyone brings biases when examining social problems. But read the comments section (with caution) and understand that for many Atheist of Color, when branching out for the first time, these online resources are their first exposures.

You can call this duckling controversial all you want, but its the ugly in the comments section that should concern you.

The Controversial Duckling