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Freedom

by Ethan Walsey

      I was raised on the idea that America was founded on principles of freedom for all. In order to understand why it isn’t, it is important to understand the difference between freedom to and freedom from. Freedom from (or negative liberty, as named by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) is the removal of pre-existing obstacles or barriers, which at one point, whether literally or metaphorically, kept you shackled. Freedom to (or positive liberty) is realizing that your life is yours alone, and you have the ability to make whatever you’d like of it. Another way of looking at it is by using them in a sentence. “I have freedom from my oppressors!” versus “I have freedom to do whatever I please!” When the founding fathers were creating this country, they were so caught up in their pride in their freedom from, they didn’t even think about their freedom to ensure the well-being of all, regardless of race, sex, class, or any other arbitrary factor. And in 2020, we are still not free. 

      Recent events have pried my eyes open to this fundamental truth: we are still not free. We weren’t in 1776, and we aren’t now. The de facto descrimination of minority groups is something that has been constant throughout time. The only difference now is that we can record it and broadcast it on the news—instantly. As a cis white man with a decent head on his shoulders, I have an unwritten obligation and duty, as do any and all white people, to weaponize my racial privilege towards bigotry and racism. If we (white people) don’t, and we sit idly by, we are morally equal to those who are doing the oppressing. As perfectly articulated by civil rights activist Desmond Tutu: If we are impartial in situations of injustice, we have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. But responsibility doesn’t stop at racial roles. As someone who actively participates in graphic design and art in general, I have the unique opportunity to take the revolution and make it appear irresistible to onlookers. Collages, slideshows, infographics, and pictographs are scattered throughout everyone’s social media feeds, and for good reason. If we (the artists) want to bring information to the table, it would be a sin to present it in a way that isn’t visually appealing if we have the means to do so. 

      Now, I am going to directly address you. The reader. Yes, you. I feel for you. Unlearning false information is hard. Relearning new information is harder. And teaching others to follow suit is the hardest. But if you’re reading this, it means you care. It means that this grassroots movement, started in the wake of George Floyd’s martyrdom, means something to you. And chances are, you have a decent head on your shoulders too. You have the ability to make a difference through educating yourself and others. This is your call to action. 

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