“One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face” — W.E.B. DuBois in Strivings of the Negro People,1897.
For many Black Americans, the Fourth of July is a holiday for debate. Do we celebrate, embracing the fact that America belongs to us just as much as any other living soul? Or as Frederick Douglass stated, do we reject the notion of holiday, recognizing that the 4th of July is “…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.”
Are we American? Are we Negro? Can the two be reconciled?
The question is complicated and has been passed down for generations. Personally, I typically spend the 4th of July wearing red, green, and black while jammin’ out to The Roots in Philly or watching fireworks on the National Mall in D.C. All while cursing white supremacy with a red, white, and blue Budweiser can in hand. I.e. Complicated.
Black Americans have no obligation to hate, celebrate, or explain their attitudes towards the 4th. As Americans, however, we ALL have an obligation to be critical of our nation’s history, and challenge the racial nature of our founding story. Here are a few articles to help complicate how you view the 4th.
In no particular order…
“The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me.”
“By no stretch of the imagination are black people still slaves in America. But the institutions created by slavery, namely white supremacy, still dictate black lives daily. Nowhere is this reality as stark today than in our criminal justice system.”
“The freedom that all American’s should celebrate on this day is a freedom that we fought for, same as everyone else. Though it may have come to us belatedly, and in some senses still seem incomplete, the rights to liberty and its celebration are ours as much as any others.”
“With Key still bitter that some black soldiers got the best of him a few weeks earlier, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is as much a patriotic song as it is a diss track to black people who had the audacity to fight for their freedom.”
The author discusses the role of integrated anti-British rebellions which occurred in the Colonies throughout the British Empire prior to, and throughout the American Revolution. “The long struggle before, during and after the Revolution on the Patriot side was a great and heroic beginning, and deserves, at last, to be widely known.”
“So, part of my ambivalence toward the fourth of July doesn’t rest on hating others or carrying the crippling burden of acidic anger. It comes from the fact that I know that my people are at least 100 years away from gaining their independence. Consider me to be a pessimist, but when I look at the world around me, I see very little independence for black people.”
“But while the vibrant, multicolored, more mature and just society that Obama evokes has been born, it could still be choked in its cradle. Every stride toward freedom that America has taken was against determined opposition. Even today, you can still get in trouble for criticizing America for not living up to its promises. (Think Jeremiah Wright or Thurgood Marshall.)”