On Saturday, America will celebrate Independence Day. July 4 is a day of internal conflict for every enlightened African American. As Americans, we’ll celebrate the ideals of this Democratic experiment. We are the one country in the world that consciously proclaimed that despite our differences we could form a “more perfect union” grounded on principles of justice, respect, meaningful life, liberty and equality.These noble ideals are what makes America great.
The U.S. Constitution continues to encourage us that what we have written, we can achieve. Though the Constitution was written by flawed men who were racist, sexist and probably homophobic, they produced a document greater than their weakness. The ideals of the Constitution have drawn people around the world to this place because they believed that we could live up to the promised American dream. The Constitution makes those who were captured and forced to be here hope that one day we will be one.
The African in me, however, remembers how we have failed to be the nation we aspire to be. Racism has been part of the American experiment from day one. White America stole the land of the indigenous peoples of America, infected them with disease, raped and looted them and broke every treaty it ever made with Native Americans.The enslavement of Africans and the subsequent historical acts of anti-black racism has placed an indelible stain on America. We have treated Asians and Latinos horribly. Racism in the development of America has become both systemic and institutional. It is not merely individual. We are witnessing its insidious character in acts of police brutality, indifference to the forced imprisonment of Latinos and the separation of their families at the Southern border, mass incarceration of the poor, Black, brown, and ignorant urban blight, coupled by shouts of “white power” by white supremacists. It is hard to celebrate when one feels like the country you love hates who you are.
Yet, I will celebrate the Fourth of July because I am African American. As African Americans, our families and community have helped build this country. Black people have made major contributions to America’s prosperity and existence. We have fought in its wars, produced great inventions, entertained its populace and contributed to its greatness. We have been and still are its poets, teachers, inventors, merchants, farmers, clergy, scientists and business leaders. Despite harsh segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, rapes and murders, Black people produced for the America they believed in and loved. Black people have blood in the bricks and tears in the mortar of this nation. I celebrate our contributions to the hopeful actualization of the American common good.
I celebrate the idea of this democratic project. I am encouraged that more white Americans are realizing that racial injustice at every level is injustice toward everyone. Young and older white people are saying “enough is enough.” Americans are tired of the division in this country. They understand that Black lives do matter and are tirelessly protesting to make the point clear. Americans want an America that includes all of us, not just the “white” part of us. I celebrate the cultural shift that is happening before our very eyes.
So, I will celebrate in hope. My hope is for an America that becomes what we imagine, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”