Reflecting on the 4th of July is Complex! 

 “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community.  Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.” ~ Georges Erasmus

Today many, and even myself, will gather with family & friends to celebrate US independence from British tyranny.  There is something to remember & honor: Countless lives where lost, the Constitution was created & a Democracy was formed.  But let’s be honest, the 4th of July is really a holiday in celebration of white European liberation from British tyranny.

For many others, there is something to lament.  While the 4th of July is a reminder of the end of British rule, it also a reminder of Native Genocide, Chinese Exclusion, Japanese Internment Camps, Exploitation of Mexicans, Muslim fear and Black subjugation & inferiority.  It’s a reminder of racial hierarchy & white supremacy at the expense of countless other people groups.

As a biracial woman that ethnically & culturally identifies as a black woman, I am reminded that at the time of the American Revolution, millions of black bodies were subjugated to slavery, being robbed of their human & civil dignity, subject of cruel & unusual punishment & relegated to an inferior social status. Even after the Civil War, black bodies may have been free from the oppressive system of slavery but still they were not free from white tyranny: white supremacy.  They were exploited, oppressed & terrorized through black codes, share cropping, Jim Crow, redlining, lynching, restricted from social, political & economic gain.

Today with the War on Drugs & Prison Industrial Complex, we as a nation have fueled the mass incarceration of black & brown bodies & poor whites.  This is a new but not unfamiliar racial caste system that oppresses US citizens because they are black, brown & poor.  The criminal is the new N-word, permanently stripped from the very social, political and economic benefits that the 4th of July celebrates.

The land of the free & the home of the brave has more people locked in cages & under criminal justice surveillance than any other country in the world.  There has never been a time in this country where all people have been truly free from imperial tyranny.

So, yes, let’s celebrate our independence from British tyranny! Let’s celebrate our Constitution! Let’s celebrate our Democracy!

But let us not forget to also lament.  Let us re-tell & remember the whole story! And, as a dear friend said, “Let us not forget that we as a country have much more growing to do before the land of the free rings loudly [for all people].”

Growing is a painful struggle and burden to bear for all of us!

*Image borrowed from Rabbis Without Borders.


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