How Can I Celebrate Independence Day in Good Faith?
Every year, I find myself questioning the merits of celebrating the 4th of July as a young Black woman in America. In my more, critical/cynical days it was a mockery. How dare we burn fireworks and have barbecues in celebration of a day that was never really meant for us? But now, I see it as a moment for reflecting on the importance of freedom, and the importance of finding a way to define freedom in our own terms.
What better day to consider and reflect on the meaning of Freedom?
And this can also be a time to celebrate the obvious advances we have made as a nation, right? When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, it declared “ these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The statement tasks governments with securing these rights and fitted the people with the responsibility of holding their governments accountable. When this social contract was written, it excluded all except White men. As such, the day was nothing more to Black people in America than any other day.
Have we achieved the idealistic equality promised by the Declaration of Independence? No. But at least we can say the Declaration of Independence is less of an absurdity now than it was in 1776. Black people are now full members of American society, and therefore have the right to the equality and everything else set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Yet it still seems counterintuitive to celebrate the those self-evident truths of equality and the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when it seems that minorities in this country are routinely stripped of all of the above.
While White America celebrates the anniversary of their independence from Great Britain, Black Americans should look to the Declaration of Independence as a symbol of what this country still owes us. The same holds true for the LGBT community, women and any other group that has yet to realize the full truth of equality and liberty that the Declaration of Independence promises.
I am no longer questioning the merits of an Independence celebration. The country is as divided as it has ever been. Now more than ever, we should continue to mold and shift our interpretation of the Declaration of Independence. Adopt the spirit (though not the logic) of the forefathers of this nation and declare our equality and our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.