The Fourth of They-Lie

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Frederick Douglass: What to the American slave is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.

[Comment]

 

Certainly most of the people that partook this week in the traditional spectacle of holiday fireworks and cookouts are not aware of Frederick Douglass’ famous speech about the Fourth of July, let alone understand its present-day significance.  Particularly for “Africans-Americans” and the Indigenous people of North America, the essence of Douglass' speech still holds true today:

 

"What to the American slave is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy's thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour."

 

Historical reality and its subsequent development make the title “African-American” an oxymoron. Malcolm X, about 180 years later, was still able to apply appropriately the analogy, “I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate and call myself a diner”.  “America” and “American” has posited itself contrary to the very interest of all African people. In this great nation African/Black people are still disenfranchised and repressed in the most obscene ways, making the honoring of the 4th of July, as is popularly presented these days, an insult and a mockery.

 

Our youth and even small children are murdered by police with impunity for having done nothing at all.  This has been played out in the fairly recent police murders of Oscar Grant in Oakland, Sean Bell in New York, 14 year old Deonte Rawlings in Washington DC, 7 year old Aiyana Jones in Detroit and we might as well recall Brother Amadou Diallo in 1999; an unarmed 23-year-old Guinean immigrant in New York City who the police shot 41 times. All of them were innocent.


All of them were African/Black and no justice was brought against any of their murderers.  This is the persistent legacy of the Declaration of Independence that should have more accurately read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; All RICH, WHITE, MEN.” The sacred hierarchy here being class, race and gender.

 

After all, at the time the document was being refined and deliberated on, a decision won the order of the time to remove a paragraph by Thomas Jefferson condemning the “execrable commerce” of enslaved Africans/Blacks. Because the great founding fathers did not intend to end the slave trade they struck this contribution of Jefferson’s from the text and it should be further noted that the omitted paragraph is no real credit to Jefferson either, as he himself “owned” hundreds of enslaved African/Black people until his death.

 

Historian Howard Zinn also points out in his book, People’s History of the United States, that the “use of the phrase ‘all men are created equal’ was probably not a deliberate attempt to nake a statement about women. It was just that women were beyond consideration as worthy of inclusion. They were politically invisible.”

 

So, in the U.S. of A one is best off being a rich white man. Then secondly best off being rich and white. Other then those one needs to at least be rich. If you ain’t none o’ these things…well we all know today’s stigma and stereotype of the Black woman with so many kids on welfare. This is a direct legacy of the fact that there of course could be no rich Black women at the time of this “Declaration of Independence”.

 

To this day, African-“Americans” continue to bear the heaviest burden of the economic recessions that have plagued the capitalist system throughout this countries’ history, receiving absolutely no redress or even relief by this so-called democracy.  So reparations are out of the question. And our stigmatization by US-Western media continues to regularly demonize and dehumanize us. This legacy, its affects and various methods of domination and exploitation have endured against us to this day.

 

I reiterate; What to the African in the US is your Fourth of July I answer, a day that reveals to us more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which we have been the constant victim.

 

The education system for us here is replete with culturally biased education, revealed mostly in social studies and history.  Our connection to Africa and our noble resistance movements, wherever we are, are neglected and virtually omitted. Disparities in healthcare have blatantly racist and sexist implications.  Hundreds of our freedom fighters languish as political prisoners who were targets of COINTELPRO, including the most telling symbol Leonard Peltier, representing this countries’ disregard for indigenous people of North America, and Mumia Abu Jamal, representing one of the most stalwart and profound voices of African resistance in this country.

 

In 1985 the Baldus Study focused on AtlantaGA, revealing that the race of victims in death penalty cases determined most whether a defendant would be given the death penalty, and concluded that this is basically a prosecutorial discrimination.  Since then studies have been done in all 50 states exposing that in California, the accused killer of a white victim is 4 times more likely to get the death penalty than if the victim is Latino. In Mississippi the accused killer of a white person is 5.5 times more likely to get a death sentence than the killer of Black victim.

 

All this is further compounded by race if the accused is Black. In such instances where the accused is Black and the victim is white, the death penalty is almost certain and furthermore, a “formula for major media attention,” according to the study. This is an example of how African/Black people and our Latino sisters and brothers are demonized in the media and how media serves as an appendage of the U.S. power structure, contributing to mass misperceptions. For example, among the murders in Alabama only 5% of them are perpetrated by African/Black people against White people but random street polls gave numbers in excess of 50-60%.  U.S. media abets the promotion of misperceptions and racial prejudice.

 

In Philadelphia, an African/Black person accused of killing a white victim is 7 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a White person accused of killing an African/Black victim.  In Texas the number is 35 times more likely.  

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident.  Rapper, Capital X has a song that goes something like this:

 

“If they ain’t out to murder us,

“They’re out to lock us down.

 “Don’t’ care where you come from; big city, small town.

 “They’ll put you in the ground, in an early grave,

 “Or ship that ass up state, bound in chains like a slave.”

 

As a Capital X fan I quote another song where Bro. says, “No one deserves to live and die like this. This is not god’s will. This is politics.”

 

If the interest of Black people in the U.S. is in fact inextricably linked to Africa and its geo-politics (and it has to be) then U.S. foreign policy toward Africa must have bearing on our “Americaness”.  Let’s recount. The US conspired to severely undermine the African movement for independence from colonialism in African and the quest for Pan-Africanism (one unified socialist Africa); They conspired to overthrow Kwame Nkrumah, assassinate Patrice Lumumba (and have sustained brutal dictators in the Congo ever since).


Through, countless policies like the bombing of Libya and Somalia, and support for Frances’ bombing and domination of the Ivory Coast; U.S. support for neo-colonialism in Uganda and Rwanda; their obscene undermining and domination of Haiti, all point to a diametrically opposed interest to that of people of Africa descent, Black people within US borders and the world over. Because this commentary only addressed mostly the U.S. relationship to African/Black people, this is only the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that could be examined regarding U.S. pride and patriotism and the Fourth of July.

 

Frederick Douglass concluded his Fourth of July speech with the still amazingly pertinent words:


“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the every-day practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

 

 

Netfa Freeman is a longtime activist in the Pan-African and international human rights movements and a co-producer/co-host for Voices with Vision on WPFW 89.3 FM, WashingtonDC. He can be reached at netfa@hotsalsa.org.

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