This weekend our nation’s Declaration of Independence will be celebrated – as it should be. But for many this is not a celebration – and that should be understood as well.
I spoke this week with two colleagues I really like and respect about the 4th of July, one white and one black, and I learned something from both that I wanted to share in hopes it can help perspectives on both “sides”.
My white colleague, a proud veteran and patriot, spoke of how important this day is to him. He challenged me to read the Declaration of Independence as he had just brushed up on it himself. He noted the principles in there we were founded on, and that even at the time it was “controversial” because many of those principles didn’t apply at the time to blacks, women or even non-land owners. He paused, then thoughtfully added “You know, it is pretty hypocritical that many who wrote about freedom owned slaves. There’s still a lot of work to do to fulfill this declaration.” I was reminded you can have a deep love for this country while still recognizing there’s deep work to do.
My black colleague, who not only married into a white family but also has her birthday on the 4th of July, shared with me that growing up the holiday just wasn’t celebrated. She pointed out that it wasn’t out of spite or anger, it just simply was not part of her culture. It wasn’t until marrying into a white family she had her first “real 4th of July” and it was quite eye opening. In short, the 4th just wasn’t a celebration for black people because, well, it took another 100 years before their independence really came which is why Juneteenth was a much bigger deal in her community.
My takeaway is really simple – you can love this country and support Black Lives Matter. If you really listen, you can hear the vast majority of people want the same thing – “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. We’ve just arrived at this moment in history having traveled very different paths. The great part about America is that we’re not afraid to do the work and now we have an opportunity to really advance those principles declared on July 4, 1776.
I hope that you enjoy your celebration this weekend. I hope that you honored Juneteenth or learn more about that celebration, too (this was the first year I did). And I really hope that someday there’s a true celebration for all of us – maybe that date is yet to come but I’m hopeful we will get there soon.