by Min. Paul Scott
On July 5th 1852, the great orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglas delivered an electrifying speech where he posed what was possibly the most significant question of his time; "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" He received a thunderous round of applause.
A hundred and twenty some odd years later, July 4th 1976, as a nine year old junior militant, I stood defiantly on a picnic table, raised my sand shovel and posed a similar question. Why do black people celebrate Independence Day, anyway?"
The response I received at the "Pic-Nic" or Pic-A-Nigger? "Shut up and eat your hot dog! "The issue of whether African Americans should celebrate the 4th of July is one of those eternal questions that is often asked this time of year but never receives a valid answer. Why do black folks feel obligated to dress up in red white and blue top hats and sing the Star Spangled Banner when our ancestors were in the field picking cotton while the colonists were getting their party on?
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a day off from work and a trip to the beach as much as the next guy but it's time to replace political correctness with historical correctness. As a matter of full disclosure, I've never prided myself as the all American boy type. I hate baseball and even the thought of apple pie makes me nauseous.
So my view of American history may be cynical at best. "African Americans were not free in 1776", did not have full citizenship in 1876, were still fighting for equal rights in 1976 and in the aftermath of the Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin murder, 2076 ain't looking too promising either.
Contrary to popular belief, America's victory in the Revolutionary War did not bring my ancestors one iota closer to Independence than if the Red Coats would have won. Just if the British had won, instead of having a Big Mac and a Pepsi for lunch, I would be dining on crumpets with a spot of tea. And I would probably be listening to Sir Paul McCartney in my ipod instead of 50 Cents.
Although, many overly patriotic zealots claim to cherish freedom of speech, speaking against this country's day of national pride is considered sacrilegious, worthy of a trip to the woodshed, or worse.
Although the constitution grants freedom of expression, in the 21st century, freedom of speech comes with a heavy price. There is always the distinct possibility that you could wake up one morning in a cozy little cell in Guantanamo Bay or at best find yourself sitting across the desk from a stone faced IRS agent trying to explain why your last year's vacation at Disney World was tax deductible.
Should I have to live with the fear of "America love it or leave it" being graffitied on my front door just because I will have the only house in the neighborhood not proudly flying Ole Glory? As America becomes increasingly more culturally diverse he will have to deal with the blatant contradictions in His-Story books.
While Tony Romanomay be throwing a big party for Columbus Day maybe he shouldn’t invite his coworker Blue Sky Runningbear to the shindig. And while John Smith may pay tribute to his WWII veteran grandfather to commemorate every V-Day, his neighbor, Yoko Tshima, may morn the death of hers.
Americans must begin to respect each others rights to party or not to party on 4th of Ju-Lie. While some will dismiss my views as those of some ultra militant, left wing radical who is still miffed that Rev. Jesse Jackson didn't get the Democratic Party nomination back in 1988, could it be that I represent the views of millions of the silent minority who are afraid to express themselves for fear of McCarthy-like persecution?
So, don't expect to see me at the annual fireworks show this year with my finger stuck in the potato salad. I'll be home reflecting on the fact that for millions of African Americans, on 4th of Ju-Lie, the road to Freedom is still under construction.
Min. Paul Scott is a "gangsta writer" and activist based in Durham NC. He can be reached at (919)451-8283
"It's Ok not to know, It's a shame not to want to know."
Dr. John Henry Clarke