This 4th of July, while you’re popping fireworks and chillin’ with the fam, remember the contribution that enslaved Africans made to this country before and during it’s first 90 years of independence. Frederick Douglas said it best in his brilliantly subversive 1852 speech, titled, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. In one passage he challenges:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing is empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Yes, slavery was “a long time ago”. But so was Christ’s life on this earth, the advent of capitalism, the rise of free and compulsory public schools, the Civil War, colonialism, and a million other things that not only continue to get debated, celebrated, studied and discussed ad nauseam, but also continue to have a legitimate, measurable impact on human life.
All I’m saying is, if you’re a “real” American–whatever that means–then you must acknowledge not just the good times that made this country what it is–whatever that means–but the bad epochs as well.
My inner-god knows there were a lot of them.