This July 4th, America will
celebrate 245 years of independence from British rule. However, when
President Joe Biden signed into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday,
it forces Americans to take a sterner look at what this July 4th
More than two years after the
Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and two months after the end of
the Civil War on April 9th, 1865, enslaved African Americans in
Texas found out they were free on June 19, 1865, called Juneteenth.
Also, it's known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and
With wildly two disparate
celebratory liberation narratives about independence, America must
reconcile its founding ideals with her spotty lived reality.
In 1852, Frederick Douglass called
America out on its hypocrisy in his speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro". In it, Douglass stated that a
country in the throes of slavery has to close its gaping gap between
the ideals of the United States and its dastardly deeds toward POC.
His words still resonate today.
"What have I, or those I
represent, to do with your national independence. ... I am not
included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high
independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. ...
This Fourth of July is yours, not mine."
African Americans have fought in
every war defending this country, starting with the American
Revolution in a segregated military until 1948. Crispus Attucks, a
brother of African and Native American ancestry from Framingham, was
the first martyr for America's independence in the American
Revolution. Prince Estabrook, an enslaved man from Lexington and
black Minuteman, was wounded in the first battle of the American
The fight for black independence was
ongoing during the American Revolution, too. Enslaved Africans who
fought for the British, called Black Loyalists, were ensured their
freedom. Sadly, enslaved Africans who fought against the British
were. They were reluctantly acknowledged as Black Patriots, even
today in celebrating July 4th.
Black patriotism is exhibited not
only on the battlefields of America's wars but also in America's
streets and sports arenas.
For example, in 2016, San Francisco
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick began to protest police brutality against
black Americans and other forms of social injustice by taking a knee
during the national anthem. His action was seen as polarizing,
un-American, and unpatriotic. However, when patriotism is narrowly
defined, it can only be accepted and exhibited within the constraints
of its own intolerance.
Case in point, former President
Trump, in particular, stoked the flames of Kaepernick's expression of
protest. Trump publicly criticized Kaepernick and his allies, calling
them S.O.Bs, who took a knee during the national anthem as being
anti-the American flag, cops, and the military. To Kaepernick's
defense, former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted with a photo of
one of the first images of King down on his left knee in Selma, AL,
on Feb. 1, 1965. Holder tweeted that "Taking a knee is not
without precedent, Mr. President. Those who dared to protest have
helped bring positive change." MLK said in his Montgomery Bus
Boycott speech on December 5th, 1955, "The great glory of
American democracy is the right to protest for right."
The controversy of taking a knee
during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," America's
beloved national anthem, brought heightened attention to its racist
history. Francis Scott Key, who penned the lyrics, supported slavery
and came from an influential plantation family in Maryland. The
song's third verse, no longer sung after the Civil War, included the
lyrics, "No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the
terror of flight or the gloom of the grave."
In depicting the mangling grip of
white supremacist domestic terrorism on black lives, Malcolm X in
1965 said, "That's not a chip on my shoulder. That's your foot
on my neck." Last year, the world got to see 9 minutes and 29
seconds video of former Minnesota Police officer Derek Chauvin's
murder of George Floyd with his knee on Floyd's neck. Floyd
handcuffed, lying face down, saying, "I can't breathe went limp.
Last week, Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
The ongoing struggle, however, against police brutality persists.
This Fourth of July, people will
once again sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" or recite the
Pledge of Allegiance or reenact the Continental Congress of 1776 or
watch reproductions of the "rockets red glare and bombs bursting
in air." America' will showcase her indomitable spirit of
bravery and patriotism as -vaxxed or non-vaxxed - citizens during
this ongoing pandemic.
However, this 4th will be different
from the previous ones. Juneteenth can no longer stand in the shadows
of America's celebration of independence. Juneteenth highlights how
it is inextricably linked to America's core values of life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister,
motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is
frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All
Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly
Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN).
She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion
columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the
U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ
newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn,
NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union
Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor
at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard
Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard
University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while
being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey
Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the
best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible
Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life,
an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled
in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and
Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in
"Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one
of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the
Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for
her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at
Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in
America. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and