Democracy's 'Freedom Dreams' After 9/11

9/11 Memorial (Getty Images)
9/11 Memorial (Getty Images)

Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry, in her blog at the Nation, writes about a book on the politics of freedom and equality whose final chapter was written in direct response to the events of Sept. 11.


Not long after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Robin Kelley, the award-winning historian of race and labor in the United States, published a book titled Freedom Dreams. It is an intellectual history of the various political projects for achieving freedom and equality that dominated the American landscape in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries …

In the final chapter, Kelley spins his own "freedom dream" of what might become of Ground Zero. He writes:

"What shall we build on the ashes of a nightmare?

"We don't need another hall of finance, wealth and exclusivity, no more symbols of class, power, and privilege. We don't need another gargantuan modern-day mill where some working people slave over mops and vacuum cleaners in the wee hours of the morning and others over computers and fax machines way past sundown. Yes, jobs are valuable and necessary in a world where everything — even food, shelter, and clothing — is a commodity. But now is the time to think like poets, to envision and make visible a new society, a peaceful, cooperative, loving world without poverty and oppression, limited only by our imagination." …

Like many Americans, I found the tenth anniversary of September 11 particularly hard to comprehend and to process emotionally. How could a decade have passed? How could we still be at war? Did anything other than cascades of violence, greed, and division rise from the ashes of ground zero?

Read Melissa Harris-Perry's entire blog post at the Nation.