Not free, we only licensed,

from Black Star – Thieves in the Night Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

Mos posits that blacks are not really free in modern American democracy/capitalism — they enjoy their “freedoms” at the pleasure of a white majority that might strip them of their so-called rights at any moment.

What Mos Def is getting at here is what the political theorist Quentin Skinner calls “republican liberty”— not the mere enjoyment of privileges, but the means to ensure that those privileges cannot be taken away on the whim of some ruler who is not accountable to you.

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