Today is July 4th, a day that has substantial significance in American history. Some approach this day with extreme Patriotism wearing red, white and blue and posting flags in their yards; while others still attend July 4th parades to hear speakers and music that attempt to recapture the spirit of America's independence from the British Empire. Others ignore the day altogether.
Additionally, there are masses of people who appreciate July 4th for the utility only. They enjoy the day off, which quickly becomes filled with friends, family, music and food. Most in this group do not have active thoughts regarding the veracity of the holiday; although at a subconscious level, most are aware of the Declaration of Independence and the new nation it formed. This new nation, born 241 years ago, being the nation that provides the context for them to enjoy the utility of the holiday.
As an African American male raised in rural South Carolina, my family fell into the utility category. We enjoyed every 4th of July with the major theme being "whose house would set up the grill?" We didn't have conversations about patriotism or the legitimacy of the day. We ate, sang, danced, and enjoyed family and friends. This is what the 4th of July meant to us and many families within our community.
When I went off to college, I actively listened to the lectures given by professors on the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. I heard how many of the founders possessed a dubious faith, which on one hand esteemed God as the Sovereign hand behind their efforts, while at the same time participating in ungodly acts against fellow humans. I also heard how blacks fought on the side of the Revolution (whether forceable or voluntary is another conversation).
What was interesting however, is that the benefits of the Declaration of Independence, and subsequent Constitution, didn't specifically and immediately apply to the African in America. Dr. King referenced this phenomenon pertaining to the African as a "check that has been returned insufficient funds." I was perplexed. How was it that to some the flag represented the bright light of hope found in a new country, while to others, it represented a dark cloak that hid the light of that same hope?
At this point, some could stop reading because they think this is another anti-American blog that marginalizes patriotism. On the other hand, others could keep reading for they feel this blog justifies their anti-American attitude. Both perspectives are wrong, although I do covet your continued reading. This blog doesn't marginalize Patriotism, for the ideals (not the practices) this republic was founded upon are among the best the world has seen. Additionally, this blog doesn't aim to magnify an anti-American sentiment because even with all her errors, sins and crimes, masses of people aren't leaving America. Quite the opposite is true. Masses of people are trying to get to America.
The Declaration of Independence, and the forthcoming Constitution, were documents of immense importance to the African in America. As a matter of record, the fact that we can choose to refer to ourselves as African American is the direct consequence of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The legitimate, historical and biblical rights we attained during the Civil Rights Movement were the results of Dr. King and others appealing to the "Trinity of Social Change" -- The Constitution, the Scriptures and the Conscience of humanity.
African Americans should acknowledge and celebrate the 4th of July not because on that fateful day in 1776 we fully participated in and enjoyed the benefits of the Declaration of Independence. We should acknowledge and celebrate not because the Constitution was written from a position that directly included us as equal heirs of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We should acknowledge and celebrate the 4th of July not because "white people did something for us that we could not do for ourselves."
We should celebrate and acknowledge the 4th of July because of the statute it represented. Nearly 100 years removed from Independence Day, in 1863 Abraham Lincoln appealed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to legitimatize his executive order of Emancipation. Again, 100 years later in 1963, Dr. King appealed to the Declaration and the Constitution in his "I Have A Dream" speech at the nations capital. In retrospect, even though both these documents, and the subsequent days that commemorate them, didn't initially provide benefit to the African, history records that both of them were monumental in our progress in America.
To what legal precedent would Lincoln have appealed if there was no Declaration? To what legal document would King have quoted if there was no 4th of July? I celebrate the 4th of July not because America is innocent in its atrocities against my people. I celebrate the 4th of July not because America doesn't have unpaid obligations to African Americans. I celebrate not because the criminal justice system isn't preconditioned to incarcerate black men while turning a blind eye to their death at the hands of militant-minded police officers.
I celebrate the 4th of July because the Sovereignty of God allowed a document to be written that provided the context for the legal progress of my ancestors. I celebrate the 4th of July because the "Juneteenth" celebration would never have been a reality had not Lincoln appealed to the Declaration as applicable to a marginalized and denigrated people. I celebrate the 4th of July because, although imperfect, the Flag of independence that was a full cloak for my ancestors has progressively allowed light to shine upon my family and friends.
The spirit of our nation is one of Freedom; the freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Initially this freedom didn't apply to all, but due to the 4th of July, it could apply to all.