Kenneth L. Hardin: I’m not celebrating Independence Day either
Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2022
I didn’t celebrate Juneteenth, the day skinfolk recognize as their freedom day, and I won’t be joining in on all the fireworks, hot dogs, and apple pie consumption this July 4th. I can hear the angry keyboard strokes from the false patriots showering me with that played out blasé phrase that if I don’t love this country then go back to Africa.
Well, I loved this country enough to volunteer to fight for it for six years in the military. I was willing to die for it whenever that bell rang in our barracks prompting us to run to the hangar with a mobility bag to board a plane not knowing where we were going. I’ve endured the verbal jabs and physical manifestations of hate simply because my God blessed me with a skin hue darker than what society deems acceptable. So, if I choose not to celebrate a freedom that didn’t have me or my people in mind when this country was founded, then I’ve earned that right.
Let me share a bit of background of why I’m not running out to the tents set up in parking lots to buy sparklers. Out of the five people who drafted the Declaration of Independence, three owned slaves. One of those three, Thomas Jefferson, was the king of owning people with 600 in his possession during his lifetime. The majority of those who put their name on the Declaration were slave owners. Four of the first five U.S. Presidents were slave owners. Slavery was legal in all 13 colonies. The authors of this document didn’t have the courage to abstain from this treachery and maintained human subjugation to gain the support of southern delegates just to keep the union intact. Even back then, leaders were putting politics over people. Black folks were given so little consideration that it was included in the Constitution that anyone who wasn’t free would be counted as 3/5 of a person for congressional representation. That perception hasn’t changed 246 years later as I’ve been made to feel less than a full man and a human being so many times.
Black people have been mired in a long-term, one-sided relationship with their love partner, America, for centuries. Although we’ve been treated callously and insensitively, we continue to show our commitment and loyalty to this relationship. We’ve endured domestic violence, political infidelity, social ostracization, and deep-seated indifference to our needs, yet we still love this country unconditionally. Even though we’re continually physically abused with police brutality, we make excuses saying it will be different the next time, but it never is. We rationalize and explain away how we’re mistreated in this relationship, often shouldering the blame for the abuse. Instead of standing up for ourselves and demanding we be treated with a semblance of decency and respect, we accept token symbolic apology gestures and mute our voices until the next time America raises its hand to us. Like a jilted but supportive spouse, we stand beside America at the press conference to show a united front and our unwavering support. We even have a few confused African American spouses of this country who will publicly defend their captors, owners, and abusers in a sad display of explaining why they love and believe in them. These modern-day Stepford spouses have developed such a misguided psychological alliance with their abuser, they refuse to see how they’re being used as props to further an agenda of white supremacy.
Racial hypocrisy is rampant in this Country. The sanctimonious arrogance of people here who preach inclusion, but fall silent when instances of hate are perpetrated, drip heavy down the face of this Country like biting into a ripe fruit, and watching the juice run down the chin of America. Verbal acknowledgment is given that Black folks are catching hell, but not enough to actually put policies in place to stop it. America wears her hypocrisy proudly like a high school athlete wears a varsity letter jacket, so everyone knows she excels at her sport. America’s sports of choice are hatred and denial. If this was truly my land, then why does it hurt so much physically and emotionally to exist here? Why do I have so many conversations with other skinfolk about how exhausting it is to be Black in America? When you wish me a Happy 4th, excuse me as I stretch, yawn, shake my head from side to side and roll my eyes in obvious derision.
Black people need to turn off that alarm clock, stop relying on wake-up calls, and don’t allow America to lull you back to sleep with cheap apology gifts like festivals in a park, removing statues, praying at lynching trees, erecting signs, or other empty symbolic gestures to buy your silence and adherence.
Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.