My ancestors, from what I know, are comprised of primarily African Americans and some Native Americans. The stories of my ancestors are much different than the stories of the Pilgrims who freely traveled across the ocean to practice their religion, the Americans who braved the frontier and settled in the West, or the men who warred against the British during the Revolution to gain the right to govern themselves. Yes, the American story is full of struggle and adversity. The difference between the African story and the story of those whom I listed above is the fight for humanity. Did the Pilgrims, and the Revolutionaries, and the settlers have to fight? Yes, but through their fight they always maintained humanity in the eyes of those who they were escaping. Such is not the case for the African in America. Not only has the African American had to fight against the capitalization, politicization, manipulation, and exploitation of his or her life but we have had to prove our humanness to the country I was taught to call my own.
I am an African American. This is not who I chose to be but I have come to understand that God has purposefully made me black, it was not an accident. When I ponder the history of my ancestors, I must go back to the roots of American history, the truth. For many United States citizens they see George Washington or the early American soldiers as their heroes because they connect them to their freedom. Is the black person also to celebrate in these home-grown icons? The Deceleration of Independence while meaning liberty and freedom to the white person shouted hypocrisy to the black person. As an American, I should be able to celebrate these great documents, ideas, and victories with you, but on July 4th, 1776 my ancestors were in chains. This is the war raging inside of me. This is my history.
I leave you with a snippet from a speech by Frederick Douglas.
"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in 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 sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."
-Frederick Douglas, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro