With a surge of mass conscious awakening that has taken place over the last couple of months, it is difficult to reflect on a day like today and not feel the sentiments of Fredrick Douglass and his call to a critical evaluation of the fourth of July. A day that we have been taught in this country from a young age was meant to represent freedom, but when we take a deeper look the question remains, freedom for who?
In the lives of Breanna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Vanessa Guillen, Santiago Baten-Oxlaj and so many others, we see the harsh truth that the gift of freedom is only granted to a select few in this country.
People are dying at the hands of our law enforcement because of the color of their skin. Women in our own military are being sexually assaulted and murdered by the very men in the system. Innocent families seeking refuge and promise in our country are being caged and forced into death.
This begs for us to take a deep and hard look at the question, who was freedom and independence truly granted to in this country?
As we continue to explore these often uncomfortable questions, our intent is to explore the truth behind our history and drive more informed intention behind our actions. Our road to change starts within ourselves.
With that in mind we ask that you read this excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ speech entitled “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?” and reflect on what the Fourth of July really means:
“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?…
I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. 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 stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
If you are interested in reading the entire speech or more content related follow the links below: