Not all of us are free, or All Colonizers Are Bastards

Briana L. Urena-Ravelo
3 min readJul 4, 2017
A picture of the author in a shirt made by her friend, Shane McSauby

Frederick Douglass’ oft quoted Fourth of July speech given in (my birthplace!) of Rochester, New York in 1852 asked “What is the fourth of July to the negro?”

It drove home the fact that as enslaved people, stolen Africans-and Indigenous people-inhabited a different space in the fabric of the settler colonial experiment that is the United States, one in which they were abused and assaulted by the values of the state, for who the promise of freedom and justice for all did not stand for.

The truth remains today. Black people, Indigenous people, and displaced and/or refugee global south people of color, were meant to be in a state of constant statelessness, of disillusionment and confusion about our place and role, or orchestrated lack thereof, in the American empire. We are neither master nor citizen, just a perpetual foreigner or a hostile savage unwilling to give up her native ways and/or requiring enslavement or subjugation lest her brutish mind leads her to trouble. America exists only to assault and erase us until we aren’t us anymore.

Even the language of so-called liberals & progressives establishes themselves falsely as the first people of the United States, as the innate core, that merely have chosen, out of the kindness of their settler/slave master/gate keeper heart, to allow the existence of scorned colonized people in their midst, so long as the act centers them. And their language, rife with inaccuracies, belies their bias. “We are a nation of immigrants,” “America was already great.” But in a world of land grabbing, slave trade, war and capitalism forcing displacement, broken treaties and forced expansion and settlement, who is an immigrant? Someone who leaves their colonial home for another & cannot return to see the face of their grandmother before her death because she lacks money? An Indigenous woman who people have been here for time immemorial, the weight and beauty of which surging heavily in her blood? A woman whose people had no choice in the matter and were brought as slaves, whose heart and legs thunder with the swell of oceans crossed and lynchings survived, skin seared like grilled peaces under Southern suns? Or the settlers who caused and took advantage of this aggression? So again, I ask, who is the immigrant? Better yet, who is the liar? Considering all of this, when was America ever great?

Unlike the hippie ethos of a borderless world where one belongs everywhere in all nations, a leftover colonial mentality merely bandied up to fit a new generation who sees themselves as different from the last, we aren’t meant to belong here. Whether because we are meant to be dead, meant to be vessels to be used then discarded, or seen as a risk to the “American Dream”.

I am not a dreamer but a thing of colonizer nightmare. I belong neither here nor in any makeshift home I could imagine or make anywhere else either. All colonizers are bastards, and they have made one of me, too. And I’m not the only one caught limbo. This is done so as to confuse us, to make us loyal in hope of assimilating into the dream despite the flaw of our birth and blood, but to make sure we know we aren’t quite there yet, and probably never will be, enslaved to the constant Sisyphean task of cutting ourselves to size to never quite fit.

So instead of grapple with that, I will remain whole and disloyal to a state that hates me. I will yet spend another year disavowing settler ownership of Turtle Island and the violences committed to build it up and keep their interpretation of “peace” (though capitalism, the police state, etc) and instead showing my allegiance to the people, my people, the savages, bastards, resisters they could not displace nor kill.



Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: