In writing this piece I would like to first state that I neither detest America nor do I repudiate my citizenship.
Independence Day, July 4, 1776: a date that I have been taught, since elementary, to glorify, honor, and celebrate.
It was on this spectacular day that our forefathers, headed by, The Thomas Jefferson, conjured the greatest document in American history. The Declaration of Independence manifested America’s sovereignty and freedom as the once child, now raging teenager, broke from the parental guidance and discipline of mother Britain.
When mother Britain received the declaration, it responded with the “Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress”; in which it denounced the signers of the declaration for not applying the same principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to the enslaved African Americans. The question that was most frequented was how congress slave-owners could proclaim “all men are created equal” without freeing their slaves.
Before continuing, I would like to add that I am in fact an African American. So if the following arguments come off as seemingly biased, it’s quite possible that they are.
It is understood by the general public as well as taught in our schools that the “Emancipation Proclamation”, an executive order issued by, The Honest and most Honorable, Abraham Lincoln in 1863, freed the slaves. Now as a fellow writer, I’ve come to personally know the power of words, but more importantly the power of their interpretation.
The Emaciation Proclamation did not free slaves. It proclaimed that the slaves in the ten states that were then in rebellion, which also had already seceded, were free. In other words, Lincoln had no jurisdiction on the states in which he “freed” slaves, thus the Emancipation Proclamation had no effect on nearly ¾ (3million) of slaves in the U.S. at the time.
What freed the slaves was the advancing effort by the Union Army, which enlisted, and got exceptionally aid from, slaves and former slaves. After the victory of the north, the reestablishment of the seceding states, and the most pivotal 13th amendment (1865, 2 years after EP) slavery was outlawed.
How as an African American can I celebrate a document, whose racist signers intentionally excluding my then enslaved ancestors?
How can we as proud “blacks” celebrate a day of freedom in which we were not free?
To quote Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Mask, “I am not a prisoner of history. I must not look for the meaning of my destiny in that direction.” And I am not and I don’t, but there is a spiritual tension that arises within me when I see so many people (black people) ignorantly shout “freedom, happy independence day;” albeit their ignorance is bliss.
Again to quote Fanon’s Black Skin, White Mask, “The density of history determines none of my acts. I am my own foundation.” It is not solely the reality or the facts of history that have lead me to my current take on Independence Day. It is simply a sense of responsibility and truth that is so overwhelmingly enlightening that I can’t, respectfully, ignore; in honor of those who preceded me.
I am a human being first, an African second, and an American last. Two thirds of my being rejects the holiday known as Independence Day. One third of my being relishes in the pride, the unity, and the love and joy displayed across the nation on Independence Day. And it is because of that unity and love that I won’t burden you: with demagogic slander of the nation, anti-social antics, rebellious protest, or even highlight the obvious racism that slumbers in every brick that built this nation.
“I, too, am America.” So I won’t burden you, but instead leave you with a simple request; Use this day not to celebrate a document but family. Not too many opportunities are presented, as would be liked, for us (U.S.) to spend precious time with loved ones, and for that I am grateful.