Reflecting on Independence Day and Not Celebrating It

Writing for the Huffington Post, Pastor William H. Lamar IV contends that African-Americans shouldn’t celebrate the false sense of freedom the 4th of July emanates but rather reflect on America as what it historically was and what it currently is — a place where he is surrounded by “economic bondage, educational bondage, political bondage, health care bondage and religious bondage…”

There will be fireworks and Sousa. But I am sticking with Flav and Frederick. Why? I find little to celebrate. Douglass calls the Fourth “your holiday.” He does not own it. What happened to white Americans in 1776 was hardly felt by many black Americans in 1976. He calls the founders “your fathers.” He does not own them. And I cannot own them. They never intended for my ancestors to be anything but human cogs in the wheel of their economic prosperity. That is a fact. To forget that is to trample upon the bones of my forbears. I must reflect upon my ancestors’ elusive dream of freedom.

The government and the corporate media celebrate as patriots those who are uncritically supportive of America’s imperial exploits. That is not my heritage. I am Richard Allen’s son, the first black man to write a political pamphlet challenging America’s white supremacy. And we must keep writing. I am Ida B. Wells Barnett’s son, the powerful black woman who refused to let America lynch black bodies without sounding the alarm of outrage. And we must continue to speak up for those crushed by American violence masquerading as law and order. I am Bayard Rustin’s son, the black man who strategically organized people and resources to challenge the status quo and to demand justice from America. I am William H. Lamar III and Eartha A. Lamar’s son. I am only one generation removed from the ugliness of legal oppression in America. How can I celebrate liberty with bondage — economic bondage, educational bondage, political bondage, health care bondage, and religious bondage — all around me? On July 4, 2013, I will reflect on America as it was and as it is. And I will affirm my allegiance to my ancestors whose fight lives on in me.

Read William H. Lamar IV’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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The Fourth of July Isn’t for Black People

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in which he asked, “What to the American slave, is the Fourth of July?” His answer was “a day that reveals to him [the slave], more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim.” And prior to this question and answer, Douglass tells his predominately White audience “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary.”

In 2012, this message still holds true. Whether enslaved physically by mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, or enslaved mentally by the psychological chains of Black-on-Black carnage, the myth of Black inferiority, dysfunctional families, overall disunity and economic disempowerment, the Fourth of July still isn’t ours. African Americans who have a false sense of freedom and believe that they’ve “made it,” aren’t exempt either.

But, keep in mind that regardless of whether we’re slaves or free people, the Fourth of July will continue to not belong to us. As long as racism endures, Blacks will be excluded. Years of loyalty, building the United States into what it is today, fighting in wars (including the Revolutionary War that led to the colonies’ independence from Great Britain) and contributing to America’s economy doesn’t mean anything. With all of our contributions, we remain to be considered second-class citizens, or worse, less than human beings.

Yes, we are excluded from the Fourth of July celebration, but on the other hand, we must ask ourselves this fundamental question: Should we even want to be included in a celebration that continues to be, as Douglass calls it, “mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disagree a nation of savages?” I’ll leave that up to you to think about and decide. By the way, there’s no need to expound on the crimes and hypocrisy America is guilty of.

Despite America’s corruption and racist ideologies, African Americans have been surviving and making the best of their situation. At the end of his speech, Douglass said he does not “despair of this country,” and I do not despair of it either. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, as Douglass acknowledged, were brave men who were able to achieve freedoms that may not have been available to Americans had they not taken the courage to break away from Britain. Much work remains to be done, but the United States has come a long way.

Today, I have the limited freedom to write this post speaking critically of this country without being detained, tortured or executed unlike other countries in the world. In conclusion, the message to my brothers and sisters of color is this: As you eat barbeque, watch fireworks and snatch sale items off of the racks, be aware that America’s celebration of independence still isn’t ours. It is a celebration for the descendants of the Founding Fathers, but it’s mockery to the descendants of slaves.