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Ahmaud Arbrey’s murderers will be in prison for the rest of their lives, Juneteenth is a federal holiday and, as a tribute to powerful women throughout American history, the U.S. Mint will soon be distributing quarters featuring the late, great Maya Angelou. We’s really free now!

I don’t know if y’all caught the sarcasm in that last sentence but, I’m sure Auntie Maya would agree that this is not why the caged bird sings. 

Some consider this progress and while I agree, these gestures are certainly not enough to satisfy our hunger for true freedom and equality. In fact, I’d consider them table scraps–a few pieces of “representation” and occasional justice to curb our appetite and keep us from reaching for the actual prize, a well deserved buffet of actual freedom, full restoration and restitution for our years of suffering in this country. 

We can’t allow it.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Ahmaud Arbery’s death was undoubtedly a modern day, public lynching. A little under a year after he was shot and killed, U.S. Congressman Representative Bobby L. Rush introduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act in Washington that would declare lynching as a federal hate crime. And I would say that–in this case as well as George Floyd’s, Trayvon Martin’s and others–white men have swapped nooses for guns, chokeholds and other methods of brutality qualifying as lynching. 

Guess where that bill is today? Blocked by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and still sitting on the floor of the House of Representatives.

So yeah, we got justice for Ahmaud. But what about other Black people that have and will be victims of white rage? While Arbery’s killers were brought to justice, it’s sadly only a drop in the bucket of blood that drips from generations of strange fruit.

Also, America finally recognized Black people’s independence from enslavement by federalizing Juneteenth as a holiday but, the “critical race theory is evil” propaganda is still being peddled by conservatives and preventing true American history from being taught in schools. 

How are kids supposed to learn what this landmark holiday means besides another day off from school if laws are enacted to protect white supremacy and erase Black history from classrooms? 

And on that same note of banning history in schools, I would be remiss not to mention that one of Maya Angelou’s most popular works, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is banned in several states and schools–most notably, Alabama’s claim in 1983 that said it preaches bitterness and hatred against whites.

The United States heralding this icon on currency but silencing her story and voice is a blatant contradiction to this so-called representation. And to add insult to injury, on the other side of the quarter is former president and slave owner, George Washington. It doesn’t make sense.

Now what ties this all together is the main course of this political buffet–voting rights. 

Because Black people showed up and showed out in the 2020 elections and flipped a number of red seats to blue, legislators in 17 states retaliated by passing swift regulations to “protect election integrity”. However, the real goal was to further suppress voting rights for historically marginalized groups–Jim Crow 2.0.

Voting rights is one of the longest and hardest fought battles in the country and we know why. The right to choose who represents us and how we’re represented is power, freedom and steps towards equality. It’s the ability to pass the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, explain why June 19th is Black Independence Day and not July 4th and it can free the voices and stories of Maya Angelou and other trailblazers in classrooms and communities. 

But stripping those rights away is the impetus for preserving the cloak of white supremacy and oppression–the fabric that’s kept America warm and cozy all these years. And as it stands today, the fate of legislation that would redeem voting access for all eligible citizens is dark–what a dishonor to the honorable John Lewis’ legacy.

Here’s the bottom line–progress is good, representation is cute and justice is nice. But, we can’t be gullible or shortsighted in our quest for freedom, equality and justice that we compromise or accept the bare minimum. We deserve more, we deserve better and unless we demand it, this country will continue to dish out those table scraps.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

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