The Root, an African-American-centered website, recently released a video in “celebration” of Independence Day.
That video, called “No Country for Me,” is thrown into sharp relief against the backdrop of Philadelphia — where an infant United States of America took its first wobbly steps — and amid the red, white, and blue that generally washes over this particular holiday.
The African Americans featured in the video spoke of the reasons they did not “feel connected” to Independence Day — most referencing the fact that as of July 4, 1776, slavery had not yet been abolished:
“For one of us to get free, we all have to get free. So if you can rest on your freedoms without the rest of us, at some point it’s gonna come for you too. At some point, you’re gonna be the one under attack and you’re gonna want somebody to stand for you, but there’s gonna be nobody standing here.”
Another pointed out that, as a black man, he wouldn’t have been considered “a citizen” in 1776 — so he felt strange celebrating now. Still others complained that they could not celebrate a nation that was built on imperialism and colonialism.
They all left out a few important things, however, not the least of which being the fact that the American Revolution was fought to throw off the yoke of colonialism rather than to perpetuate it.
But there’s more.
Most of the people featured in the video lamented the notion that, because slavery was still in effect, the Independence Day holiday did not truly celebrate their freedom.
And they’re right. It doesn’t. But that’s only part of the story.
Independence Day does not celebrate any individual American’s freedom — rather, it celebrates the beginning of a budding nation’s eventually successful struggle to earn the right to govern itself.
Independence Day celebrates a nation’s first steps on the road to abolishing slavery, though it was still a profitable worldwide venture, on moral grounds. The first steps toward women’s suffrage. The first steps toward Civil Rights. The first steps toward a new normal that includes female astronauts and a black president of the United States.
Have there been missteps? Sure. Is America perfect? No. But there are 195 other nations in this world, and the United States of America is one of the few where one is able to publicly — and safely — state that this is “No Country for Me.”