Photo courtesy of Documentary Film Maker, Arlen Parsa from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Independence Day. The 4th of July. What a joke. Whose independence? The thirteen colonies threw off the British. Yeah!! Celebrate the document our Founding Fathers wrote enshrining the principles of the nascent United States of America, read “We declare these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Yes, but in their own all lives matter moment, our Founding Father’s excluded black people.
A parlor full of white men in white silk stockings, high heels and powdered wigs, pen this high-principled statement of liberty and equality while they enslave my ancestors, rape my ancestors, enshrine a system of hereditary bondage, make laws against teaching us to read or write, laws ensuring our status as less than.
Maybe a quarter of those Founding Fathers were not slave holders, but the overwhelming majority were; bloody hypocrites, all, so smug in their white supremacy that they never recognized the irony of their declaration. And even now many do not.
Even now, coming to grips with that reality is tearing the country apart. Tearing it apart, because some refuse even now to see the lies, thefts, exploitation and radical, racist violence behind those lies. And lies they were.
There are many who demand we stand for “the flag”, stand to sing the national anthem, then riot over any attempt to level the playing field, objecting even to the cosmetic, made for TV NFL willingness to play the Negro National Anthem for a week before their game s this coming fall.
A week? One week? To atone for 400 years?
Do you know the third verse of that National Anthem we’re supposed to sing, the Star-Spangled Banner? Written by Frances Scott Key, to commemorate the moment a large flag American flag was hoisted in the battle over Fort McHenry, signifying that the colonists had beaten back the British at this key Baltimore port, turning the tide in the war for independence. Key was a wealthy, attorney and slaveholder who believed blacks to be “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” So, when he penned the words, “land of the brave and home of the free”, he didn’t include us. Indeed, as if that wasn’t clear enough, these words from his third verse promise more terror.
“No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,”
The British recruited mercenaries and the enslaved to fight alongside their troops, promising freedom to any who did. American papers insisted is was a subterfuge, that the British would not free anyone. But Key’s third verse promises that those enslaved who fought on the side of the British will be tracked down, re-enslaved or killed. And just how did the Star-Spangled Banner become our National Anthem? By executive order of President Woodrow Wilson, the staunch segregationist who screened the first movie shown inside the White House, Birth of a Nation, and fired every black employed in the civil service, euphemistically referred to as “re-segregating”.
And that’s the song we’re supposed to sing, hands over heart, face to that flag? With Liberty and Justice for all.
How could we not kneel? How could we not pray you see us?
The British were true to their word. Defeated, they stood by those who fought with them. They gave the colored regiments land in Jamaica, to which they were ferried by the British Navy.
So, the colonies escaped subjugation by the British.
But were we liberated from your subjugation? No. You enslaved us, kept us from learning to read and write, raped us, separated our families for another 50 years. That was your liberty and justice for all. And no, we never got that 40 acres and a mule we were promised at emancipation. Instead, you slavers were paid reparations for loss of your property, meaning us. And we were left tired, hungry, landless, uneducated, illiterate, with our families far flung. Have you ever seen the advertisements, where formerly enslaved women are describing their missing children, asking if you know their whereabouts, trying to reunite.
Emancipation didn’t wrong those rights. And the promise of reconstruction was quickly broken, where it remains today.
But I like 4th of July Picnics. I like them only because I loved getting together will all our far-flung family at a big house in the country. I liked them because everyone had the day off, and I loved my aunts and uncles and cousins. I liked them because I loved my Aunt’s fried chicken, my Uncle’s ribs, my Mother’s potato salad, corn on the cob, my grandmother’s watermelon pickles, Hawaiian Punch and ice-cold watermelon. I liked them because I liked Horseshoes and Badminton and Hide and Seek. I liked them because I was a kid, and in the joy of sharing that meal, I could forget that we had to pack our own food for road trips because the restaurants along the way weren’t safe places for us to eat.
So, you can keep your Independence Day celebrations, along with your hypocrisy. Maybe you should start celebrating Juneteenth. It can be our day of celebration and your Day of Reconciliation and Atonement.