It has been 240 years since the Declarations of Independence was signed and we still haven’t reached the status of those words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
Like many kids growing up, I loved the 4th of July. I loved Independence Day. It was a time for family and barbecue. Most importantly for a child, it was a time for fireworks. I loved the fireworks show as a child. The red white and blue and large firework displays were the best part of the day. That was when I was a child. Now I am a man. I am a black man. I am a black man responsible for molding and educating the future. My love for Independence Day has diminished. It’s diminished because what exact independence am I celebrating as a black man?
In one of his most famous speeches, Frederick Douglass asked, “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” The speech is from his famous address, The Meaning of July 4th to the Negro. At the time of the speech, it was July 5, 1852. It was ironic because at that time blacks were still slaves. Lincoln does not announce the Emancipation Proclamation for another 11 years.
By no way do my words come from a place that has black people still enslaved in America. The reason why Douglass’s questions still are unanswered today is because for blacks especially black men we still are still living through institutionalized racism. This is the same institutional racism that was created by slavery some 150 years ago.
As a black man living in America, I have to simply ask the question, What to the Black Man is 4th of July in 2017? It is a fair question. Yes, there are things to celebrate like the fact that we aren’t slaves anymore. The fact that I lived to see a black man served as President of the United States. Despite those things what real freedom do I celebrate? I mean why celebrate 4th of July. Blacks weren’t even free when the Declaration of Independence was signed back in 1776. Comedian Chris Rock summed up his feelings on Independence Day back in 2012 with this tweet “Happy white people independence day the slaves weren’t free, but I’m sure they enjoyed the fireworks.” All humor aside Chris Rock was right. Mostly many blacks do not realize our Independence Day as passed. Our actual Independence should have been celebrated on June 19th, with Juneteenth. That was our time for barbecue, parades, and fireworks.
I am older. I have better conscious of what is going on. James Baldwin said it best, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” I am enraged because here we are celebrating Independence Day when unarmed black men are being gunned down by the police and or killed in cold blood and no there is no justice. Those black men killed are no different than me. I am them, and they are me. So I can’t forget their names: Oscar Grant, Dontre Hamilton, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice. Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Philando Castile. The list could go on and on. You think their families would celebrate Independence Day?
Then there is Colin Kaepernick, who is still unemployed by the NFL. Why is he unemployed? He is unemployed because he chose to stand for something. He took a stand for thus names mentioned above. Now he is blackballed by the NFL and can’t get on a team. They say because it would cause an uproar by the fan base. What fans base the white fan base of those NFL teams?
I will not always dwell on the bad this country has done to us. I do have a lot to celebrate as a black man. I will always celebrate those accomplishments. I celebrate the Black Founding Fathers, Frederick, Martin, Malcolm, Thurgood, and Barack. I celebrate them every day. I just rather not celebrate them July 4th.
Does that make me any less American?