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What the 4th of July means to me

When I was a kid the 4th of July meant barbecues and picnics at Prospect Park or at Brighton or Riis beaches, hot dogs, hamburgers, frisbees, family, fireworks, more food, more family, sparklers, get the picture. I looked forward to it every year. It was THE summer holiday!

The other part of the 4th of July, that crap about the flag and the declaration of independence, though, I couldn’t care less. Neither I nor anyone I knew of any age had a patriotic bone in their body. if there were something decorated with a flag it was solely because it was on sale, Independence day beer and paper plates or 4th of July hotdog rolls, and represented savings, meaning more money for food and gas and other necessities.

It was later in life that I realized that we were seriously supposed to be celebrating America's birthday, celebrating freedom, independence from the yolk of a European tyrant. Even as a kid I struggled with this concept because to my parents, and my teachers at the time, the only tyrants were white people and not the ones in Europe, but the ones right there in America.

What I'm saying is, I'm an American that has never properly celebrated the 4th of July, Independence day, (or whatever you wanna call it) and the way it's looking, I never will.

American history actually has a version that deserves a big birthday party every year, but unfortunately many nonwhites in America do not live lives that allow them to delude themselves enough to believe America is worthy of being celebrated. We just can't bring ourselves to embrace that version of America without embracing the notion that we are worthless, meaningless footnotes in American history. And though many history books would reinforce that notion, we KNOW that is NOT the case, in our hearts and minds and bones and DNA, we KNOW!

We live in the OTHER America, the real America. In the real America, independence day can not occur until ALL Americans are free, not just the white folks but ALL! And, depending on your perception of what took place in the US after 7/4/1776, the year and day of America's true independence varies.

Some say it was 6/19/1865 known as Juneteenth.

Some say it was the day the 13th Amendment was ratified on 12/6/1865.

Some say it was when the Civil Rights Bill passed on 7/2/1964.

Some say it was when the Voting Rights Bill was passed on 8/6/1965 (for how can you count yourself among the free when you're disenfranchised?)

Some are of the mind that it hasn't happened, yet. That we can not cry freedom while America remains delusional enough to expect anyone to take 7/4 seriously, black or white.

(I'm of that mind, by the way.)

America has some serious atoning to do, and celebrating the 4th of July without acknowledging that it's fiction is a poor way to go about it. It signals to all of us whose ancestors lived the non-fiction and did not attain independence from white tyranny that day, that our lives don't matter.

Can't help but feel that the country is hoping we will be pacified by Biden's overtures to reparations for 400+ years of slavery and exploitation, disenfranchisement, and genocide (meanwhile he's signing bills to increase police funding despite out protestation, ignoring our cries!) I want to give him a chance but it seems to me he's hoping we will forget the strides we were beginning to make last year.

I sincerely hope he is wrong.

There is still a lot that needs to be done. Getting back to normal, to the status quo, should not be a priority for anyone, least of all the leader of the country...because normal in America is intolerable for most non-white Americans.

The 4th of July is yet another monument that needs to be torn down and dismantled for the same reasons that Robert E. Lee statues needed it. 4th of July has no Mason/Dixon line. This version of history is canon north and south, a national delusion! And it needs to be redressed. America can't afford to continue to be reverential to obvious deceptions.

Once we acknowledge that it is a fabrication we may be able to refurbish it (if we're determined to save it.) We can make it a day not of celebration, but a day where Americans consider how to rectify all the havoc celebrating its independence 100s of year before a significant portion of the population could enjoy independence has wreaked. Make sure everyone understands how the whites of a nation can unite to celebrate bullshit every effing year, at the expense of blacks and other nonwhites, and why.

A national conversation to discuss how, moving forward, we can assure that Americans celebrate something real, something inclusive, something representative of what America has always touted, something that establishes justice and ensures domestic tranquility, something true to these so-called American values, to inspire America to live up to its credo. To truly be what it proclaims.

If that's what the 4th of July becomes about, then you can count me in! Til then, it's just a mockery, an affront to those who are fighting to make our lives and the lives of our ancestors matter! It's offensive as hell, feeds hostilities and while it may not be the straw that broke the camel's back, make no mistake about it, it is a straw!

Baye McNeil


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