Without realizing it, a dear friend of mine, who is a white male, has helped me put into words my conflicted feelings about July 4th. So, I’d like to share some of his thoughts interwoven with my own:
Often, he expresses gratitude to live in, and be a citizen of, the United States of America with its founding principles of strength and endurance. And, although he does acknowledge that “the shameful central tenet of freedom which was not universally applied to all peoples, the “original sin” of slavery is relegated to a stain which has not yet faded enough to be unnoticeable,” he goes on to say that there are many positives about which to celebrate.
Where do I begin? The founding principles of strength and endurance that my dear friend refers to should be, from my lived experience, credited to those enslaved people who had no choice but to give of their strength, endurance -- and very lives -- to build a country that would consider them as less than human in its declaration of independence, while treating them with no more regard than mere property to be tossed aside when no longer deemed useful. These enslaved people, in their own land, may well have been princes and princesses in training to become kings and queens.
To my friend’s point that the “stain of slavery which has not yet faded enough to be unnoticeable,” is much more than an unsightly scar on the complexion of this nation. It is a part of our history that should NEVER fade from our collective memory because too many people refuse to acknowledge the pain and suffering that caused the stain to begin with. Hence, my reservations.
From my worldview as a Black woman, the many positives that my dear friend claims are to be celebrated are the results of the forced labor of those enslaved people – my forefathers and mothers – who literally built this country with their blood, sweat, and tears. What can and should be celebrated are those who had enough consciousness and resolve to call the sin of slavery the sin that it was, and who worked to eradicate it, at the risk of their stature and perhaps even their lives, well before activism was mainstreamed and popularized.