As our nation celebrates Independence Day, a lot of people like to talk about how proud they are that we live in the “land of the free.” How proud they are of our country that was founded on the principle of “liberty and justice for all.”
But is there liberty for all here, really?
We’re writing to you today, as fellow citizens of this city we love because this July 4th, as we honor the birth of a nation founded on freedom from British tyranny and oppression, it is our duty to ask ourselves “Is everyone here truly free?”
Are all of our children valued equally? Is everyone truly free from discrimination, bias, harassment, poverty, and fear? Are all our citizens equally free to have a good education, to have decent, affordable health care, to work in their chosen field, and to achieve their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children?
The facts tell us otherwise. Our country is armed with $300 billion dollars every year to police, prosecute, and punish primarily small populations of black and Latino communities. Is a country that spends this much time and money policing, prosecuting, and punishing black and Latino communities truly free?
The lived experience of our neighbors in communities like Lawndale tell a different story.
To truly honor July 4th, we need to spend some time thinking long and hard about what liberty for all would really mean…could really mean… in this city and this country. We need to have a clear vision of what liberty would look like if people here in Chicago, in all our zip codes, enjoyed the same freedoms. So, we decided to ask ourselves, the holistic legal team and staff of Lawndale Christian Legal Center, this question:
“What does ‘liberty for all’ look like to you?”
Here are some of our answers:
“If we truly had liberty for all in Chicago, a child’s destiny would not be determined by her zip code.”
“‘Liberty for all’ means everyone has the ability to make minor mistakes without a lifetime of punishment.”
“A city where young black men are MORE likely to graduate from high school than be incarcerated.”
“A city where everyone’s best interests are weighed, with transparency from decision-makers on how they arrived at the conclusions they did.”
“Wealth would be redistributed, and reparations made.”
“This would be a place where the scales of life – health, wealth, justice, honor, and dignity – would be balanced.”
“It means that equity is truly considered when making all laws, policies, and rules.”
“A place where people aren’t judged by the color of their skin.”
“If ‘liberty FOR ALL’ was a reality, Chicago would go from the most segregated major city in the country to the most united.”
“Liberty and justice for all would bring a swift end to excessive and discriminatory patterns in policing, prosecuting, and punishing black and Latino communities, shift power and resources to our community, and afford us the same opportunity to heal, develop, and support our families and children instead.”
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “No one is free until we are all free.”
So, this Independence Day, we hope you’ll think about what liberty for all would truly look like in this city and in this nation. And we hope you’ll stand with us on the side of real liberty…for all.
Because to us, “liberty for all” aren’t just words on a piece of paper. “Liberty and justice for all” is what we’ve pledged ourselves to work for. Every day of our lives.
Will you join us?