Friday, July 1, 2011

The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro

this year the Fourth of July falls on a monday, so the country will be celebrating this occasion this weekend. whenever i think about the Fourth of July, or any independence day that takes place in colonized countries, i think about the insightful and unabashed honesty Frederick Douglass spoke with in his speech - "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro". i appreciate how his rage, anger, and pain can be felt through his words.
i think all black and brown people have to speak with this level of honesty and truth whenever we are asked to celebrate a holiday (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, etc.) that disregards our history and our ancestors. here are some excerpts:

"I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. the blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. the rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. the sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought striped and death to me. this Fourth of July is yours, not mine. you may rejoice, i must mourn. to drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony."

"Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just."

comment. think. criticize.

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