07/26/2013 06:10 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

Freedom in Black America? A Double-Edged Sword

An answer to the question "Are Blacks Free in 2013?" is at best a double-edged sword. Black people are free from the chains that bound them as slaves and from living under Jim Crow laws that kept them segregated and in bondage for years after slavery was abolished. Blacks are free to live in communities -- at least by law -- that for too long were off limits to them because of discriminatory housing practices in which realtors steered them even from looking in certain areas. Blacks are free to apply to and attend schools and institutions of higher learning that their parents and ancestors could only enter as maids and servants.

On the other side of the sword, though -- the sharp, painful side -- we see far more black people still trapped in low-paying jobs; experiencing higher rates of unemployment; and living in communities with higher rates of asthma and other health disparities than other racial groups in this nation. Even after years of struggling to achieve equality, black people are not yet free from the indignities and discrimination that continue to fuel the inequities still widely experienced by the majority.

What would it mean to be truly free? In my view, the novelty of a "token" few being at the top is not enough. It would mean that black people's presence, influence, and voices are pervasive -- seen, heard, and felt routinely, every day, everywhere, in all the ways that matter. Being free would mean that we wouldn't have to discuss the question "Are Blacks Free in 2013?" The lens through which I view the double-edged sword shows that there is much more work that needs to be done to see freedom become a true reality.