4.July – { “…with liberty and justice for all.”‎ } by Tina Nagbare


Happy 4th of July folks.

I only say Happy 4th, you won’t catch me using its formal name – as a form of silent protest. You see, “Independence Day” doesn’t really mean much to Black Americans because it is a reminder that while the Founding Fathers were signing a document that states,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equalthat they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,”

… their property was being tended to by slaves who were likely suffering from PTSD after somehow surviving (1) having their own liberty snatched from them as they were dragged from their homes, (2) being carelessly and viciously separated from their families, and (2) ‎the horrors of The Middle PassageAwkward And don’t even get me started on what this holiday must represent for Native Americans… But there I go “making everything about race” again… So today I along with my fellow Blacks will go ahead and take this “vacation” day in honor of our ancestors and use it as an excuse to eat, drink, & be merry. (See how I managed to end that on a happier note?)

Since the 4th doesn’t mean much more than the occasional 3 day weekend to me, I use it to binge watch TV shows and movies. And currently I’m working on getting through “Orange Is The New Black”. No, not season 3 – the whole series. I know, I know – I’m late to the movement, but I don’t have Netflix because I chose cable. (Respect my freedom of choice, thanks.) In the past few weeks I’ve made it through Season 1 and am now pushing my way through Season 2.

Initially, I said I was going to stop after Season 1‎. Why would I do such a foolish thing? Because I don’t enjoy the show; I don’t hate it – I just don’t enjoy it. It’s not a bad show, it has solid storylines and character development, but honestly – Piper is annoying AF. Like….#bruh…. she really annoys me (shoutout to Taylor Shilling by the way for her amazing acting… because I think I hate her in real life and that means that she is acting the s**t out of that role). Anyway, Season 1 ended on a cliff hanger and I needed to see what happened and then the Season 2 Premiere made me realize 2 things:


  1. I legit cannot stand Piper. How could she NOT see Alex was setting her up again?!? You chose to trust HER?!? The same “her” that snitched on you and got you thrown in jail over an 8yr beef then promptly lied to you about said snitching followed y some self-righteous speech when you called her on it. I mean, this isn’t street smarts is it? Isn’t it common sense to NOT trust a person like that? (The show has been out for about 3yrs so eff you and your spoiler alert complaints.)
  2. This show is depressing AF which is why I *have* to watch it. Though dramatized for our enjoyment, we should all understand that at least 80% of what we see on this show is a true representation of our prison system and how it works. I’m watching how these prisoners are treated & how their humanity is disregarded and I am horrified. Mind you, I’ve read up on America’s justice and prison systems so I heard how bad it can be…..  and this is a women’s prison…. a minimum-securityone… in upstate NY. I don’t even want to imagine what a day at Rikers might look like in comparison. And then learning their backstories…. Depressing AF.
  • I mean look at Taystee – who ended up in prison despite all of her efforts to live on the straight and narrow why because she grew up trapped in the system (orphaned) and just wanted stability and a family. AND THEN when she was granted parole she ended up right back in prison basically on a technicality and since she had nowhere to sleep (remember: orphan) prison actually seemed like the better option.
  • Or Watson who is serving years because she basically started dating the wrong guy and he convinced her to do something stupid.
  • And Piper who even with her privilege is in prison though she never saw her day in court because a DA scared her into taking a plea bargain deal.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t have been held accountable for their actions, but this show reminds me that sometimes “convicts” are just people who made a bad choice AND got caught. They are still people. Needless to say, I’ve even more critical of our “justice” system now and I didn’t even know that was possible.

‎And then I wonder how many of you are watching this show simply for entertainment and not as a critique on our society. I mean this was one of author’s goals in writing her story – to raise awareness on what happens behind bars and get more people interested in prison reform. Much in the same way The Wire (one of THE best shows to ever be on television) was meant to show us how our institutions repeatedly fail those living in poverty and in doing so promote the violence they claim to be working to prevent. Piper has since become a prison reform advocate… have you?

But then I recall all of the popular, public commentary as Baltimore was burning. So many of you (including those loyal watchers of The Wire) were shocked and confused at the response of Baltimore’s citizens who were beyond tired of being oppressed… despite watching for 5 seasons on HBO. Because you fell in love with the show’s characters, but forgot about the people those characters represent. These shows aren’t just entertainment and just because you can pause, fast forward, and rewind at your leisure that doesn’t mean that the story ends when you hit stop or when the season is over. These stories represent someone’s lived experiences.‎ When you watch them you should enjoy it and be entertained, but don’t let that distract you from the true message. Our country feels chaotic right now because too many people do not have liberty or justice and this is not how our country is supposed to work. At least not according to our Founding Fathers.

And THAT is why this show is so damned depressing and painful for me to watch, but it is also why I MUST watch it. Because as a citizen of this nation I have the right to celebrate its successes AND critique/challenge its failures and then demand that we do better. That is what a true and responsible ‎patriot would do… expect their country to live up to its founding principles and be the best we believe it can be. And so… as we celebrate in our own way today, we should also take time to reflect on what it will take to make sure we each have the courage to be that kind of patriot.

Enjoy your 4th.