Reflections of a Black man on “Independence” Day.

When I was a little boy growing in New Orleans, Independence Day was simply known as the fourth of July. I knew that there would be fire works and barbecue involved and it was also when my family would have our family reunion. As I got older I started to learn about the historical record of America : Columbus, The Magna Carta, The Boston Tea party, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were among the many items studied regarding the founding of America. What complicated these elements was the difficultly of reconciling these things with the presence of slavery in America and the treatment of Black people into the modern era. And then I learned about Juneteenth!

When one considers the full context of American history, a natural question could be asked if Black people could or should celebrate Independence Day. A fair number of my Black friends would tell me that the day is not for us. As for me, I personally think that Black people can and should celebrate American Independence Day.

While I acknowledge that the orginal constitution had a 3/5 clause in it that was tacit reference to slavery, I believe that the stated ideals of America are worthy of celebration. I also believe that Black people have toiled and sacrificed too much blood sweat and tears in building the nation. That is too much of an investment to just turn away from and to forfeit our rightful inheritence. Black people struggled, fought, and were killed in an effort to grant us our full and proper place as citizens. We are Americans, even though America has not always treated us as such.

As Americans I believe that there are certain duties we carry. We must continually work to perfect our union. It’s a hard and time consuming process that oftentimes feels hopeless. It is not hopeless. We must persevere and continue the struggle, just as generations before us have. We must correct the historical narrative of America, by acknowledging the contradiction that slavery presented and the contributions that all people made to the founding of the country. We can no longer abide a white washed, sanitized, and largely mythical accound of America. We must tell the truth even if it is a painful and uncomfortable truth. Above all, we must become full participants. We must vote, serve on juries, run for office, educate ourselves, and dialouge with people in meaniful ways.

The fight for a more just and righteous America is not going to come by waiting on it. It will come when we all work to bring it about through our collective actions. So yes, I do celebrate American Independence Day because I too am an American and I will be damned if I don’t claim the full measure of my citizenship.


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