Liberty is universal or nothing

Delacroix Liberty Leading The People detail
Liberty Leading The People, by Eugene Delacroix (detail)

Liberty is an abstract concept, though for some reason it is usually personified as a woman. This is certainly the case with the famous painting, and just in case we weren’t sure, Delacroix has her bare breasts in sharp relief. Whatever her gender identity, there is little doubt about her sex.

But Delacroix’ Liberty, like the concept, is mighty, and inspirational. No one in the painting is sexualizing her. And no wonder, given her obvious battle-scars, her size, and the fixed bayonet in her left hand. She has other things on her mind. She won’t stop until the citadel of King Charles is reached and breached.

225th Commemorative Liberty coin
Raw Story: “Conservatives cry bitter tears over commemorative $100 coin”

How literally should this depiction be taken? Must Liberty be tall and muscular? Must she have a long nose? Could a blonde woman represent Liberty? If she were short and had a button nose could she represent? Could a black woman represent Liberty?

Likely Delacroix painted her the way he did because he never considered any other representation than French and white… like him. If he had been Mexican or Greek or Ethiopian he would have imagined her differently. And yet somehow a commenter, seeing the new 225th anniversary coin for the first time, opines; “Lady liberty isn’t black, that simple.”

Wait, abstractions have race now? Well yes, and no. If you ask most people to draw a person who personifies some concept, most will portray someone like themselves. But at some time in their personal development they will realize that specifically because concepts are universal, no one race owns them.

“No one is free until we are all free,” said Dr King.

Think on that. If someone else is in chains because of who they are, then you, able to move around and decide things for yourself, are not free. The word that describes your situation is “Privilege”, which can be revoked. Your privilege could be up for grabs depending on who is in power. The only way your “freedom” is safe is when everyone’s freedom is no longer up for discussion.

Lady liberty, then, must be black. And Latina. And white. And Asian. And Trans. And Native American. And handicapped. And more.

If she can’t be those things, you’ve been worshiping Lady Privilege. She only looks like Lady Freedom… to you. It’s an easy mistake to make.


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Older technology guy with photography and history background