I have an exceptionally good life. Honestly, I can’t think of many people whose life is better than mine in terms of family and friends, health and prosperity, opportunities and grace. I am blessed, lucky, privileged, and randomly fortunate.
I celebrate Independence Day today, recognizing that this is historically a white holiday. There was independence with the signing of The Declaration – but not for everybody. Even our forefathers who were against slavery owned slaves. And women, of course, could not own property, vote, or consider themselves “autonomous” – although with Independence Day came the ability to divorce and have child-custody rights. There was some semblance of freedom for women – except of course for women of color, most of whom were slaves. Women of color have always been the last to be free.
So, I don’t want to be that person who always mentions the underside of what is good in our culture. I don’t want to be Debbie Downer at the barbecue.
And yet – for people with my skin tone, no matter how hard we have worked – much of what makes America great came on the backs of enslaved people. Slaves (along with free Blacks) built The White House and Capitol. They worked in and for our oldest and most prestigious colleges and universities. Their servitude made our colonial economy thrive. Important reading for this national holiday is this.
Happy Birthday, America. I love my country and that’s why I want us to be better than what we are now. We are a better country than the gun violence, the torture of our enemies, the toxic water, the law enforcement disparities, and the everyday racism convey. We are not only better than this; I believe we were created to be better than this by almighty God.
Image of a poster from 1769 in Charleston, S.C.