2020 has undoubtedly been a difficult year nationally and globally. With a pandemic claiming hundreds of thousands of lives, rumors of World War III and a global revolution against police brutality sweeping through neighborhoods, this year is definitely unique.
The focus on police brutality and systems of oppression still in place in this nation has reshaped the way many view the freedoms and unalienable rights that our nation‘s Declaration of Independence and Constitution promise for everyone. Now with the Fourth of July this weekend, many are left with the question of should we even celebrate and if so, how do we celebrate appropriately?
This is a dilemma many marginalized groups face every year. Now that more allies are waking up to a reality that many people experience yearly, some are beginning to understand the conflicting feelings that come with celebrating a holiday about freedom while everyone isn’t truly free.
It’s no shock that the Fourth of July is a widely celebrated holiday in this country. “Americans will spend $6.52 billion on food to celebrate Independence Day.”to the National Retail Foundation,
But as many are forced to quarantine this year instead of their typical family gatherings and fireworks celebrations, it’s causing thousands to realize how paradoxical the celebrations seem when we live in a nation with mass incarceration, disproportionate treatment of civilians by police and systems in place that protect those whose hatred and discrimination is fierce.
Juneteenth, the celebration of the last slaves in Texas learning about their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, was celebrated nationally this year more than ever before. And while individuals partook in celebrating and learning about the holiday, that doesn’t take away from the existence of the Fourth of July. We’re still left with the question of should we celebrate and if so, how should we do so appropriately?
The Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Butto the Constitutional Rights Foundation, even when these words were written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, it was a conflicting time in the nation.
“At the time these words were written, more than 500,000 black Americans were slaves. Jefferson himself owned more than 100.”
For those words to be written by Jefferson while “owning” other human beings, he had to ignore his reality. This year we should discontinue the pattern of ignoring the truth, to celebrate a freedom everyone doesn’t have. As a nation we should acknowledge that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness aren’t guaranteed for every person living in the US and we should celebrate by advocating for those individuals. It’s possible to celebrate the privileges and freedoms we have while not ignoring the work that still must be done in the present.
Events that have taken place in 2020 have pushed many into a corner where they’re no longer able to turn a blind eye and ignore the mistreatment of particular groups in this country. Rather than traditionally celebrating this summer holiday with cliches about how we’re all free, we can honor those who fought even after the signing of the Declaration of Independence for civil, social and human rights. This day that we set aside to commemorate our freedoms can now be used to support those who have been protesting daily for months and applying pressure on our local and federal governments to implement policies that guarantee protections and freedom for everyone.
As you’re enjoying your three-day weekend and laying out by the pool, remember the individuals who lost their lives this year because of discrimination and biased power dynamics. The celebration of the Fourth of July may never look the same again, but it just might be worth it.