: Why I Stand Up for Freedom in America—And Around the World #WorldNEWS In my first weeks as a U. S. citizen, I’ve experienced the full richness and contradictions of what it means to be an
Why I Stand Up for Freedom in America—And Around the World #WorldNEWS
In my first weeks as a U. S. citizen, I’ve experienced the full richness and contradictions of what it means to be an American. I changed my last name to Freedom, and then made the most of that newfound freedom by continuing to advocate for the oppressed and speaking truth to power at every opportunity. Along the way, I made a point of expressing gratitude for the freedoms U. S. citizens are entitled to. We are free to speak our minds, pursue our dreams, and have the opportunity to forge our destiny.
Unfortunately, amidst a whirlwind of emotions and sleepless nights following my citizenship ceremony, I made a comment on Fox News that has been misinterpreted as me discouraging criticism of our government. I would never belittle this sacred right to hold the powerful to account. The freedom to engage in protest is precisely what makes this country so great. But I also understand that this country was built on slavery and racial injustice—a legacy that lives on today. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, I was among the first in the NBA to march and speak in solidarity with our brothers and sisters fighting for overdue systemic change.
In the US, we at least have the ability to engage in such protest to move our country forward. I come from a country, Turkey, where authorities tried to kidnap me, forced my family to publicly disown me, tortured my father in detention, and ultimately revoked my passport, stripping me of my home and my identity—all for speaking up for human rights. The very expression of dissent and participation in protest is met with violent suppression in authoritarian regimes around the world. In China, the regime is trying to erase Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang, has systematically abused the basic human rights of Tibetans, and suppressed the civil rights of Hong Kongers. The Chinese regime jailed its critics and forcibly disappeared those truthtellers who tried to shed light on COVID-19 when it first broke out.
That’s why I use my platform to speak out and to offer my unique perspective on the immeasurable value and responsibility that comes with our many freedoms here.
But I don’t speak from either the right or the left. I’ve lived in five cities across this beautiful country in diverse communities, from Portland, Utah and Oklahoma to New York and Boston, to Simi Valley, California and Lexington, Kentucky. As a human rights activist, I know we need to work across divides with all allies in the struggle for justice, regardless of political background. Like so many, I worry that my deeper message tends to get lost in the culture wars and polarization of today’s political discourse.
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