A 4th of July Public Service Announcement

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:

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas

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.

20 thoughts on “A 4th of July Public Service Announcement

  1. 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.


  2. It really makes me angry that someone would make something racial out of July 4th. Yes, Slavery was a very long time ago, so get over it. July 4th should be kept to patriotism and celebration.

  3. Jhosey, given the brevity of your point I’m going to conclude that this isn’t something you truly wish to debate or discuss, in a common effort to break new ground, reach a consensus, construct new knowledge and understandings, etc.

    What I will repeat is, as a “real American”–and I’m assuming you consider yourself one–you must acknowledge not just the good times this country has had but the bad epochs as well, especially as they relate to the topic of independence and freedom. In my opinion, doing so would make you an even better American and citizen.

  4. I do consider myself a “real American”. I just dont see the point bring up bad epochs as you call it duing a time meant for celebration. Maybe you should bring it up during mlk day or something. I just dont get why people out there still wish to make everything racial

  5. So Jhosey, you don’t see how, for African Americans (and Native Americans as well as Mexican Americans, for different historical reasons), Independence Day could have multiple meanings?

    Sure, there are plenty of African Americans who celebrate the 4th of July if for no other reason than it’s a holiday, a day off from work, and everyone else does it. And there are others, like myself and those of my ilk, who prefer to spend the day reflecting on the overwhelming adversity and dire circumstances that different groups of Americans were grappling with at the exact moment that White Americans were celebrating independence.

    And to be sure, this ironic contradiction was not lost on at least some Whites of the day. You had great White Americans like Thomas Paine, Abigail Adams (John Adams’ wife), and James Otis, who came out and took very public stances on the hypocrisy of drafting a Declaration of Independence while permitting slavery. There were also wealthy slaveowners, like Philip Graham and Richard Randolph, who came out and freed the humans they physically forced into chattel, because they simply couldn’t shape a justification great enough that would make the contradiction right.

    At any rate, it sounds like it’s difficult for you to see this from multiple lenses, or a perspective other than your own. If that is the case, all I can do is recommend diversity training–which I happen offer as an accredited educational consultant at very affordable rates.

  6. lol nice plug there for your diversity training services. Yeah I can see where Black Americans and Native Americans could have multiple meanings, And I was aware of Abigail Adams’s public stances and the fact that she was John Adams wife. I am just trying to say that in todays times, there is no slavery, Im not going as far to say there isnt still racial overtones (as there is here) but there is no slavery anymore. So what would be the harm of celebrating a national holiday without thinking of stuff that happened such a long time ago? Thats all im getting at…

  7. Yours is a fair point that many people make. Again, I’d point out that slavery, like many other events that happened or began long ago, continue to have repercussions that are felt literally by almost all Americans and billions of people across the globe.

    I’ll give you a simple example of how slavery still impacts us today: North American slavery ended in 1865, and in a perfect world, everything would have been “equal” from that point on.

    However, thanks to over 150 years of de facto and de jure policies and laws that restricted Blacks’ economic mobility, Blacks started even further behind Whites in the race for economic (and social and political) stability and security than they already were. Feel free to research any of the following and their economic impact on Black America, both during and after slavery:

    *the Northwest Ordinance (1787)
    *the Naturalization Act (1790)
    *the Homestead Act (1862)
    *Agricultural Adjustment Act (1931)
    *the Wagner Union Act (1935)
    *FHA Redlining (1934-1962 and possibly later)
    *Jim Crow segregation (1877 to the mid/late 1900s)

    So, even though slavery ended 144 years ago, Blacks are still 144 years or more behind Whites in terms of economics and wealth. Consider the following:
    ***Less than half of all Blacks own a home compared to over 3/4 of all Whites (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002).
    ***Blacks are 3 times more likely to be in poverty than Whites (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).
    ***White families have an average wealth of $88,651; Black families have an average wealth of $5,988 (Pew Hispanic Center, 2002).

    To me, this is clearly due, at least in part, to the legacy of slavery, and the attitudes, systems, and social devices that were created during or after it. The only other logical conclusion is that Blacks have been mostly lazy, shiftless, and unwilling to work hard. But then I’d point to ultra successful Black cities and towns like Tulsa, Oklahoma; Rosewood, Florida; and Greensborough, North Carolina; which were razed and destroyed specifically because Blacks had become more successful than the local Whites.

    • The esteemed scholar Douglas Massey wrote a very well-researched and developed book with oodles of information backed by fact on issues of inequality called Categorically Unequal.

      I consider it to be the definitive work on inequality, and I suggest you give it a good read Jhosey. We must all seek to improve our knowledge on issues that we don’t understand. Only then, can we progress. The book also discusses the Reagan era, which so many conservatives tout as our greatest time.

  8. I have some comments blacks arent up to whites yet, but I dont feel right now is the time to share them. My point is that regardless or whats happened in the past, July 4th should be a time of Celebration, of putting all that stuff behind us for ateast one day. Inequaltiy isnt even a part of what I was discussing. As for Reagan, Its hard for me to judge that time in our history since I was born right at the end of it in 1989.

    • J,

      What White people must come to understand is the “why” behind the current state of race relations. White people may not like the “what” of what we say or do, but the “why” is far more revealing. Try to understand that while this country has afforded every freedom and advantage to White males (the entire fields of political science, sociology, and history attest to this basic fact) the reality of people of color in this country has been much different–too different to ignore for any reason. We simply do not feel about this country the way Whites do. This doesn’t mean that we don’t consider ourselves to be Americans. We are just as American as anyone else, but can anyone blame descendants of Indian tribes for despising the 4th? While most Blacks–I’m sure–do not despise the holiday, it has less significance for us. It is a celebration of US freedom from British rule, but during that celebration, my people were slaves, and even today we have not been placed on fair ground from which to chase the “American dream.” Yet, we are derided when we fail or fall short.

      In my view, there is no better day to exercise one of the greatest freedoms this country now affords its citizens than on the 4th–the freedom of speech. We should not tell women that they should not speak against the hundreds of years of disenfranchisement and second-class citizenship in the name of blind patriotism. The same is true for Blacks and all other groups who have been trampled under the progress of this nation. A patriot loves his/her country but MUST be critical of her as well.

      You did not mention inequality in your comment, but I assure you, it is foremost in our minds in all our dealings. One of the central privileges that Whites ignore is the privilege to ignore the circumstances of others and the antecedents to those circumstances. Race just isn’t on your mind, but nary a day goes by that a Black individual is not fully aware of her race. I want to make this nation the best it can be. All progress–says the field of clinical psychology–begins with acknowledgement. So it should be so with this nation.

      The Reagan comment is not so much directed at you. I came across a conservative fellow who I’d love to engage, but he is just not interested. He has an unwavering love of Reagan, and many conservatives do, and I have no idea why.

  9. I guess you can see why I dont like to touch on racial issues. However, its probly good practice for me for my intro socialogy class im taking this fall which will touch on that Im sure. Am I the conservative fellow your talking about? lol

    • Nope. You are very open–more open than most.

      I don’t like touching on issues that affect the LGBT community because for the most part, I disapprove of their lifestyle, but part of it has to do with just not understanding their cultural worldview or even their biology. Still, in the interest of Pan-Afrikanism, I cannot ignore this group because my people are counted among them; therefore, I am trying to educate myself in order to be able to have viable conversation about issues that affect LGBT people. It is the patriotic, mature, and morally correct way to handle things–I think. Don’t allow your aversions to issues of race to cause you to ignore them.

      I don’t want to plug the guy, but you can visit his blog. It’s at “http://timetochooseagain.wordpress.com” I’m not gonna include a link, but feel free to copy and past 🙂 He wrote an “article” or post called the “Core principles of conservatism,” and then as you read his page, inconsistencies abound. I tried to engage him on some of these–partly because I wanted to understand conservatism and partly because I just disagreed with some of what he said.

      I used the Socratic method, but he ended not posting my questions but replying to them on his site, which left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. He pretty much said he doesn’t want to hear about anything that he doesn’t believe in. Nothing can be learned with or from a mind like that–so closed.

  10. Oh I will debate the LGBT community because I dont care what they think. Their lifestyle is wrong, they know it but follow it anyway. I dont want people to see me as racist though. Some of the things I may say may seem that way though so I figured it best to shy away from racial topics, thats all that is.

    I found things I didnt like in his post too, and left a comment. He ones of them radical conservatives it seems lol

    • You are much bolder than I am with the LGBT community. lol

      As for being called a racist, man, there is a difference from prejudice and racist. I assure you that prejudice is common to us all, but we can overcome our prejudices through open communication. For instance, I was once convinced that there was no good in White people–none. Now, I still have my prejudices, but I at least allow individuals to prove me wrong. A few years back you and I wouldn’t even have been able to talk lol.

      Let me know if he responds to your post. I’m interested.

  11. He did. apparently Im a backwards person lol that doesnt know the difference between the aggresor and the victim. I basically said that the victim making the aggresor a victim as well like he was suggesting (he say its self defense) was contradicting his view that no one should harm anyone else. And im backwards? lol Looks like he erased your comment you just left

  12. Ahhh, exactly how I hoped this would turn out. See jhosey, after you finish that soc course, you may end up with a job blogging for us!

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