Blaque Ink Archives: The Fourth of July Is For Who?

The Following was posted July 4, 2010

Another Fourth of July has come (and gone depending on when you read this blog). People across this country are celebrating in their usual fashion. Families are out barbequing hot dogs, burgers and steaks while the children play around outside with water toys. All the while Old Glory pops up on the houses and their yards to symbolize their so-called patriotism. Hell, some will even wear clothing patterned with the American flag or wearing its colors.

Somewhere, there are concerts with musicians, music groups, and choirs signing about America and how great it is. The usual songs will be “Glory, Glory Hallelujah, America, the Beautiful,” and yes “The National Anthem” among others. 

On television there will be marathons celebrating the fourth in their own fashion. The AMC channel has a John Wayne marathon. SyFy has “The Greatest American Hero”. Lifetime has a “Truth, Justice and the American Way” marathon showcasing movies and specials about American justice at a time of tragedies involving white women (It’s lifetime after all). Spike TV is having, yet another, Star Wars marathon probably because the series is about wars, something America is notorious for and obsessed with (not just wars but Star Wars). In between all of that programming commercial advertisements get into the act, you know the ones.

By the time the evening rolls around and the sun sets, we hear the sounds of firecrackers off in the distance. Some people will go to shows where music and fireworks ignite the night of red, white and blue. 

To the average person if you were to ask why they celebrate the Fourth of July, they would respond with words like ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. However, I always ask another question, freedom and independence for who?

Whites continue to celebrate the fourth based on the glorified premise that America has declarated independence from Britain and to salute this country’s armed forces, all the while believing that America is the greatest country in the world. To some it’s as close to heaven as humanly possible. 

So, while you bring up questions about the Fourth, most whites will get irritated and conclude that you do not love America or its armed forces. To them there are no good reason why you shouldn’t celebrate the Fourth or why you shouldn’t love this country. 

Fredrick Douglass delivered a speech called The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro on July 5, 1852 in Rochester, New York. Slavery was still in full effect back then and black slaves were forbidden to celebrate the Fourth. In his speech he asks:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? 

He answers his question by replying:

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 sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, 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.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

This is certainly a far, far cry from the glorified and whitewashed myth about America’s “greatness”. Yet, most whites still contend that the myths should be more important than the truths. In other words let’s celebrate the myth and bury the truths. Let’s forget the fact that this country was founded by murderers and slaver owners that slaughtered millions of native Americans and enslaved millions of Africans. Let’s not mention that even after slavery, blacks were still considered less human and killed at almost every turn. Don’t bring up the fact that women had to fight for their equality as well, and all the while let’s continue to warp history and fact in a way that makes white men the most courageous, virtuous and honorable people in the world there by giving them the image of “real Americans”.

Americans will continue to hold on to colorful myths about their land like babies to toys. Harsh truths about this country’s dark history will continue to surface no matter how much white Americans will try to suppress it. 

Happy Fourth of July…


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