What does the Fourth of July mean to you?

“Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine.” —Frederick Douglass


Wow. These words are impactful. Hard to swallow even, for a young white woman like me who has truly not been forced to think about something like this until the last few months. I don’t remember this in my history classes (granted, I don’t remember a lot of things from my history classes).

 

How are people unlike me impacted by this holiday? This is new for me but has always been for my Black brothers and sisters. I have been blissfully unaware, oblivious to the hidden heartbreak and frustration that others experience… during holidays and in their daily lives. I am grateful, in a way, for the chaos of our world right now and how it has forced people like me, blind to how history is still rearing it’s sharp teeth, to see that there are still major struggles for BIPOC in our current world. The world that many people see as accepting, inclusive, “healed.” It isn’t. The Fourth of July is a reminder of that.

 

In 1776, the 13 colonies claimed independence from Great Britain, and the Declaration of Independence was signed. It would be a casual 89 years later before Black Americans felt any of those feelings of jubilation. I hope you take a moment to let that sink in.

 

Does this mean that the Fourth of July should not be celebrated? By no means. Do not interpret this message as an attack on any beloved barbecue plans. But acknowledge that you don’t have the same experience as others, and everyone’s experience is valid and worthy of being known. Use this day as an opportunity to be mindful of how far we still need to go—of what things you can personally do to make the world a better place. A good first step is listening and understanding one another without the lens of judgment or superiority.

 

Expunging the mortal sin of racism from our nation’s soul is not easy, but it is essential. — Andrew Carleen

 

With Sigma love,

Jesi Wilcox

 

 

Additional reads:

https://time.com/5614930/frederick-douglass-fourth-of-july/

https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2020/07/02/fourth-of-july-frannie-carr-toth-cloe-axelson