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The Fourth of July is a celebration of oppression

This Independence Day, let's take a look at what's there to celebrate. Is the United States really free?

The Fourth of July is a celebration of oppression
Image Source: Protests Continue Across The Country In Reaction To Death Of George Floyd. SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 14. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Every year, the United States celebrates Independence Day on the Fourth of July. Independence for who, exactly? In 1776, the year that the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, not all of America's residents were free. White people still owned Black slaves—the transatlantic slave trade was thriving—and plundering the land of Native Americans, looting their natural wealth. Centuries later in 2020, people of color and those who don't conform to the country's Christo-cis-heteronormative patriarchy (we'll get to that phrase in a bit) are still under subjugation.



 

 

In 2018, the highest poverty rate by race was found among Native Americans at 25.4 percent. Black folks experienced the second-highest poverty rate at 20.8 percent. 12.9 percent of women lived in poverty. Meanwhile, White men were the least likely to experience poverty. In the same year, there were at least 26 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people due to fatal violence (the majority of whom were Black trans women). Of the 7,120 hate crime incidents reported that year, more than 1,300—that's about 19 percent—stemmed from anti-LGBTQ bias. Hate crimes were on the rise against Muslims and immigrants too; it had only been a year earlier that President Donald Trump introduced the Muslim ban and locked immigrant children in cages.



 

 

So who is America really free for? For straight, white, Christian, cisgender men? So, men like the country's Founding Fathers... And pretty much no one else. This country is plagued by systemic injustices at multiple intersections of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and more. Our institutions are ill-equipped to address these inherent biases. And these biases are embedded in our holidays, our much-loved Independence Day, as well. We think of fireworks and barbecues, but we rarely think of the slaves who built this "great nation." We rarely think of those who had to lay down their lives for this land. Of those whose children and children's children we tainted with generational poverty and trauma.



 

 

I'll admit, we've come a long way since this country was first founded. But have we come far enough to celebrate red, white, and blue, freedom-chanting America? Not if we aren't fighting for the freedom of all Americans. Ibram X. Kendi, the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, writes for The Atlantic, "On this Fourth of July, the rest of us—and our wealthy white male allies—should be celebrating our ongoing struggles for freedom and not celebrating as if we are free. We should be celebrating our disobedience, turbulence, insolence, and discontent about inequities and injustices in all forms. We should be celebrating our form of patriotism that they call unpatriotic, our historic struggle to extend power and freedom to every single American. This is our American project."

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