03 July 2013

BLACK PEOPLE AND THE HAUNTING COMPLEXITY OF THE 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION!

 This is an article I wrote July 4, 2012 and it deserves in my mind re-posting this year.  There are many of us who still have ambivalent feelings about this holiday. The cyclic nature of our citizenship being challenged requires a re-visiting of the past and what got us to this day.  SCOTUS's dismantling of the voting rights act, proliferation of voter suppression, increase in the number of white supremacist groups re-framed with the same dynamics of the past and the continuing struggle of other marginalized groups demand our full attention and activism.  The rights of women are being threatened now and efforts to again devise laws and policy regarding the limitation of their first class citizenship and empowerment have emerged in a rather daunting manner. At the onset of any revolution the cadre is always considered to be renegades and troublemakers, however, they are a necessary component when people rise up against tyranny and oppression.  With that said; I should also mention that Crispus Attucks, a man of color and escaped slave was one of the first to die in the Revolutionary War.  He was referred to as a 'thug' by John Adams, however, history has proven him to be one of the "true patriots" who began the rebellion against the tyranny of Britain.  I've also, briefly, acknowledged the struggle of women of color and what many of our heroines did to gain and guarantee the rights of ALL of our citizens!

 
A passage from Frederick Douglass' speech on people of African descent celebrating the 4th of July.

 For the present it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are plowing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver, and gold; that while we are reading, writing, and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants, and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators, and teachers; that we are engaged in all the enterprises common to other men -- digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and above all, confessing and worshiping the Christian God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave -- we are called upon to prove that we are men?

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 sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, 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.





 

James Earl Jones  gave voice to  the  Frederick Douglass 4th Of July Speech.

When Frederick Douglass gave that memorable speech to America on securing full citizenship for people of African descent to have the full rights therein; where did black women stand at that time?  Where did women of all ethnic groups stand at that time?  Certainly not full citizenship afforded to  white males.  Therefore, I think Sojourner Truth's speech rings true for womanhood with her emphasis on the double oppression that women of color had suffered at that time.
Certainly--times have gotten better since then for black people and females, however, I hear a whisper and at times loud ramblings that would set women back to times when they had no control over their bodies or their lot in life.  

 
                                           "Ain't I A Woman" read by Alice Walker........
                                                                               


The struggle continues for the maintenance of rights won and the vigilance against more creative forms of exclusion. The women of the late 19th century realized that as well as the black female leaders in the 21st who continue to carry on the struggle.
 




On a final note; Ronda Racha Penrice wrote an article in The Grio as to why Black Americans should celebrate the 4th and a brief passage follows:
"As with every war, including the ones currently being fought, African-Americans have served this nation nobly. So, when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July, we have just as much right as any other American whose investment in this nation extends back to its very foundation".    She is not alone and the debate goes on and I'm sure people of all ethnic groups have their varying opinions on this issue.  Is there a right or wrong as to the significance of July 4th to people of color? Their ancestors were chained and shackled and lived through Jim Crow and continue to deal with de facto as well as various forms of discrimination and bigotry.  Is it about wars we as a people fought in and had to petition for the right to bear arms for freedom?  This in the face of clearly fighting for the cause which excluded them.  Some would say that it's about the principles of a democracy that should be inclusive and it transcends the practices and ideals of those in power who make exceptions.   By the way, the mainstreaming of overt acts of racism and bigotry have become more prominent since Americans voted a man of color as their President in 2008.  How is that for irony.  I would surmise, however, that it becomes another holiday for many to have family picnics/reunions/fireworks and a good time not really focusing on why we celebrate it nor its significance.  
 
Addendum:
The other day I viewed Bill Moyers' program featuring the Historical Scholar and Director, Kahlil G. Muhammad of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  They discussed Confronting the Contradictions of America's Past with a reference to his exhaustively researched and analytical book; "The Condemnation of Blackness".  It was informative and engaging and for some of us history buffs; it brought home how much we still don't know about the makings of this country and the depth of systemic racism towards black people post slavery and at the turn of the 20th century. Many European immigrants  who were social misfits during that time were socialized by intensive federal and state interventions to become more palatable and productive citizens at the expense  and omission of black folks of similar circumstances.  The entrenchment of the criminality factor that was supposedly inherent in our DNA fostered laws of repression and control over the decades and is manifested in New York City's  'Stop and Frisk' policy of today.  At the closing of the discussion, Mr. Moyers inquired as to how  Dr. Muhammad reconciles celebrating the 4th with all his historical and current knowledge on the subject of gross inequities and continual revisionism of it by the power elite.  His response was interesting and made the concept of  'cultural escapism' more relevant to me and that the most erudite folks among us must take a break from the paradoxes and complexities of living in America. 

I've provided links to the program on Bill Moyer's website and  an article/video with more information regarding Dr. Muhammad's background.  Both are worth viewing. 
Links:


3 comments:

Desertflower said...

Hey Caroline, Sad huh... just thought I'd hop on over here and commiserate. Wow, I can't even believe it really....Nothing, nada, he walks off scot free...

Carolyn Moon said...

Sad and depressing. Once I get over this physical reaction to this travesty of justice; I will support efforts to present this to the federal justice system as a civil rights violation. Race and profiling was a significant dynamic in this case and the DA's office and the defense lawyers' repeated denials won't make it go away.

Desertflower said...

Oh Carolyn, I hope something can be done.

This may set a nasty precedent and intensify such murders. I'm thinking also about the other youngster in the suv with the music that that guy shot also.

I'm shocked at such blatant racism.

I honestly didn't know Florida was that way. My daughter was thinking maybe someday to go work there because people have told her it's good. But tonight she said NO WAY!

She also was very shocked and mad with this verdict!

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