A while back I learned something, or maybe I should I say I started to think about an event much differently. A black friend and I were talking about the July 4 holiday, which is a celebration of our countries Independence Day. After the conversation, reflection, and continuing to educate myself (and challenge certain assumptions), I now wonder what Independence Day really is. Is Independence Day really for anyone other than a white male?
I am the type of person that reads, believes in facts, data, science, using critical thinking, history, etc. I challenge assumptions and learn and I try as hard as possible to understand the meaning, root cause, and genesis of them. I try to fully understand the issue and stay away from group think and tribal thought like most people participate in. I try to be empathetic to history, not like those white people who say black people should get over certain statues, racism, etc….as I do not and have not lived that history or current challenges….who am I to say how they should feel. But even though I do these things, I continue to be “blindsided” from time to time.
On a side note, sadly, racist/sexist people (most of whom do not even realize they are racist/sexist and/or lack any ability to self-reflect or learn) do not do those what I consider to be things above. At least studies show this and I also see that from the racist/sexist people I know, a complete lack of knowledge, empathy, and self-reflection. Whether the people know that they are racist/sexist or whether they do not even know that about themselves, I have no idea, but I know both types.
Quick summary of Independence Day
A brief, high level recap of Independence Day in 1776. Well, how about this. In July 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed/published, it is estimated that about 20% of the population was black. On Independence Day, black people were not given “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. They were not looked on as being “equal” as the Declaration claims all people are. After the declaration/constitution, black people in effect went from being “slaves” under British Empire laws to being Slaves under the American system.
Want to dig even deeper into history back then? Actually want to know facts? Well then know this, the black community were not even considered “people” (i.e. human beings) back then but they were “property”, to be sold, exchanged, breaded, etc. at will. Even the small number of “free black men” were like considered “10th class citizens” at best. But happy Independence Day to black people!
Now as I said, I have been trying to learn more and more since my mid to late 20s. This reflection/understanding on the history of Independence Day was a huge blind spot for me. This is so even after trying to understand, educate myself, become empathetic over the last ~20 years. I know I have many “blind spots” and I am sure I will be blindsided by some or all of those blind spots in the future. But when I learned and thought about “Independence Day” this way, which is the historical way, it really affected me.
I try to digest things, think them through, process them and not react. It usually takes my days to toss things around in my head, and when I thought about Independence Day this way it messed me up for days. I was mad at myself because I completely missed thinking about Independence Day this way.
Now, what about white women you say? Well, how about this. In July 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed/published, let’s say about 40% of the population was white women. They were not given “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of “Happiness”. They were not looked on as being “equal”.
Women could not own property, sign legal documents, vote, hold political office, get their higher education, work the vast majority of jobs, etc. While granted white women had many more rights than black people and white women were actually though of as being human beings, their rights were extremely limited. Happy Independence Day to white women!
Now, what about white men you say? Well, white men are really the only ones that could celebrate their independence from the British Empire! They had the ability to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. They were “equal”. (Of course there was economic inequality that impacted some rights white men had, but heck that is no different from the world we live in today as well). White men had the ability to hold land, vote as Americans (if they held land or paid taxes….and all white men could vote in 1820s), men could work, go to college in America, hold political office in America, etc.
The truth is that Independence Day is not or was Independence Day for a majority of the US. It was only Independence Day for the vast majority of white males, as the Declaration of Independence (or the subsequent constitution) did not apply to white women or black males or make them “equal”, or give them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Note all this applies to the Constitution as well, as the Constitution allowed discrimination based on sex, gender, and race. The Constitution did not give equal rights to women or black people.
But July 1776 Independence Day was a long time ago. Get over it!
First of all, I seriously doubt that the vast majority of Americans know the history and facts. Or thought about Independence Day this way, in particular white people. While I agree, 1776 was a long time ago, even as I type this post today women, minorities, and the black community are STILL not equal. As I have noted in example after example. And if they are not even “equal” today (200 years+ after Independence Day), can they honestly pursue happiness?
I also am always surprised at the lack of empathy and judgement that white people have. As just one example, I see/hear white people say “get over it” regarding statutes and they tell black people (or others) that society needs to acknowledge the good and bad of past leaders/statues. I see facebook posts that say this or read other content. And yes, those comments came from white people….white people saying get over it. Who the F are they to know how a black person feels or tell them how to feel? It is so wrong, and many of those white people that make those comments are ignorant/self-absorbed at best, or racist at worst. My mom passed earlier this year…it is the exact same thing as someone telling me to “get over your mom passing”. Or someone telling me how I should feel.
White people who “judge or tell how others should feel”, such as white people saying how black people should feel about Independence day or statues, those white people are close to if not narcissistic as there is absolutely zero empathy.
But I digress. That is another post in itself! Lets go back to Independence Day, and how people were not back then and are STILL NOT equal. Or still not equal in their “pursuit of happiness”.
- Women were not even able to vote until women suffrage in 1920. ~140 years after “Independence Day”.
- Women could not even go to some/many colleges until the 1900s up to as late as mid-1900s. ~200 years after Independence Day.
- It took over 200 years (until 1981) for the first Woman (Sandra Day O’Connor) to get on the supreme court.
- Black people still were not “free” until the mid-1960s if not early 1970s. They were under rule from Slavery until Juneteenth, which was June 19th, 1865, or ~90 years after Independence Day. Then, even after that date, black people were still not “free or equal or able to pursue happiness on an equal basis” under segregation from Jim Crow Laws until Civil Rights Act of 1965 (and even later from some schools up through 1970s). ~200 years after Independence Day.
- Not to mention even in 1965, racism did not go away over night. Blacks only had legal protections. So even after that day through current racism, discrimination, etc. is still strong in our country….study and data point after data point shows this, and I also see it on an anecdotal basis from people I know.
- The Republican political party has less than 15% of have women or minorities in their ranks today. It is like 85% white males. Data that is that outrageous means something…almost like the party refuses and goes out of their way to have diversity.
- Women still do not even have an equal rights amendment. It was proposed in 1923! As the Constitution of the US does not give equal rights to women, regardless of their color. ~245 years after Independence Day women are still not equal like the Declaration claims people are entitled too.
- It took over 200 years for first women to be selected to run as a VP (1984) Geraldine O’Connor.
- According to EEOC, black people make up about 2.5% of ~100,000 finance executives at financial firms…as a side noteHispanics are all of ~3.5%.
And on and on….as I have been writing about. So while Independence Day was 200+ years ago, anyone who thinks that black people or women (regardless of race) are equal today are ignorant and do not look at facts. As systemic racism and sexism are still going strong today. Which of course makes groups unequal and limits the ability to “the Pursuit of Happiness”. And yes, still 200 years after Independence days serious equality issues exist today.
So, what is Independence Day about?
The fact is that the only people who were equal, free, had liberty and the right to pursue happiness were white males. Even then, it tended to be “well-off” white males (such as property owners, tax-payers, etc.) that had more rights than other white males.
I never thought about Independence Day this way until recently. I was and have been aware of Juneteenth, but it was mind blowing to me to understand/realize how Independence Day in 1776 was really only for a subset of the population, that being white males. And that the lack of “equality”, “Liberty” and pursuit of happiness was not given to others for as long as hundreds of years. Women and black people are still not equal.
I love this factual summary of our history: The consequences of writing women out of the republics founding documents were both lasting and devastating. That the framers of the Constitution had not resolved the question of slavery led to a civil war. That they regarded women as unequal to men nearly did the same. Over the course of American History, women had often written themselves into the Constitutions by way of Analogy. As the fact is, women and black people were not given equal rights or liberty (and by extension the ability to pursue happiness, by the constitutions or Declaration of Independence. They have been fighting for these rights for over 200 years, and both are still second or third class citizens.
Cancel Independence Day?
Now would I say there should be no Independence Day? No, I personally think there still should be a recognition of Independence Day. But once again, I am writing this as a white male who does my best to educate, understand, and empathize with the current racism/sexism in our country as well as the past 200 years of it. Sadly in some ways Independence Day holiday, it is like a big party and everyone was free from rule and given Liberty, etc. is almost rubbing it in the face of others.
I know that lack of equal rights that is still out there, but I can’t feel it on an emotional level or see it in my everyday life. I can’t feel it like a women who gets passed over for multiple promotions. Or I can’t feel it like the black community who needs to worry about their physical safety, getting pulled over at random by police (even the one Black Senator Tim Scott continues to get pulled over by police for no reason), and all the professional discrimination.
But now I better understand the Independence Day history. I think I can better empathize with how others can look at and feel about that Independence Day history. I think it helps me understand other by race, genders, etc. more.
But yes, I do think there still should be an Independence Day. But maybe it should be more “sober” or thoughtful, or at least part of the holiday. Maybe at the same time of Independence Day, there should be more thoughtful talk about the tragic history of our country, and how many of the people were back then and still are looked on as second class citizens.
I also think that other days, such as Juneteenth, should be national holidays. Or a day for women too, such as maybe women suffrage too. Or what other day(s) those other groups decide….it is not for me to say. As while they are still not equal today, back on July 1776 so called Independence Day those groups (women, black people, etc.) had almost no rights, Liberty, or ability to pursue happiness.
(On a side note, I am publishing this on July 3 as it splits the difference between July 2 and July 4…as some of the drafters of the document consider July 2, 1776 Independence Day and John Adams would not even recognize July 4 if someone spoke to him about it.)
This is some liberal post or idea
For those that think this is some “Liberal” or extreme post, Nope. You are flat out wrong. It is about basic human rights. Has nothing to do with politics….sadly for America somehow basic human rights and fairness have become political. As people read on this blog, I have posted “pro-capitalism” views as well as “anti-capitalism” views. I have posted “pro-1% wealth/income” articles as well as “anti-wealth income disparity” articles. I have posted articles on “there should be health care for all” as well as “anti-health care for all articles lack personal -responsibility”. I have posted “pro-Republican articles” as well as “pro-Democratic” as well as “anti-Republican” and “anti-Democratic”. I watch CNN, Fox News, and MSNB. I read the NY Times as well as Breitbart and WSJ editorials among many other papers and websites. Not to mention countless books. I read different opinions, but once again, I rely on facts, science and math to direct me “where to go” and “what to believe”, and all of this on the nation’s history is factual.
Or at least what the general consensus of Republic or Democratic is, as quite frankly I have no idea what the Republican parts stands for these days. I have no idea what are their core beliefs/goals, etc. as many of their core belies have changed over the last few years…but people mindlessly still follow. As anyone who looks at the facts and uses critical thinking the party has completed changed and is extremely hypocritical (even for politicians). But I will post on that later!
And the point and facts of Independence Day 1776 that I noted above, this is not my opinion. This is a factual recap of the country both back then in 1776, back when the constitution was signed in 1787, and through current. As only a small segment of the population in 1776 was considered equal, had liberty, and was able to pursue happiness. And a segment to the population is STILL trying to get there.
I will leave you with this quote which I very much liked. On another side note, I have read many history books over the years, but for anyone looking to learn and educate themselves, my favorite is These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore.
“Consider how straight-up insane it is for people to feel superior to fellow human beings they’ve never met — often without even realizing it. The foolishness of people insisting that so-called “inferior” people are dumber, meaner, lazier, less honest — less worthy — because of their skin color or gender, while failing to note the dumb, mean, lazy and dishonest people who look like them. Making assumptions about others based on their appearance clearly opposes Christ’s blanketing love — and yet many racists claim they’re Christian. Would the God in whose image in which we were created approve our judging others based on the skin that same deity wrapped them in?”