today in black history

June 21, 2018

Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of Cleveland, Ohio was born in 1927.

What to Our Black Children is the Fourth of July?

POSTED: July 02, 2017, 7:00 am

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Bianca Roberson, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown

As America prepares to engage in symbolic acts of patriotism in celebration of the nation’s independence, the irony of such demonstrations of national pride is not lost upon Black youth. Born or emigrated into a nation of great promise and hope on parchment, the hypocrisy of America confronts Black children and young adults in every facet of their existence. So, on a day of flag waving and fireworks the essential question to consider is similar to that posed by Frederick Douglass for Independence Day in 1852 – What to Our Black Children is the Fourth of July?

Can we enjoy this day, participate in acts of national identity knowing that our Black children are held captive by a nation that sees no value in their existence, denies their humanity and murders them at will? The rhetoric of independence, the reverence for the flag, the strains of “Oh say can you see…” are all cruel reminders to the children descended from enslaved Africans that slavery’s wicked grip rises from the grave and grasps for their necks. The lighting of the evening sky by bold pyrotechnic displays is in contrast to the shroud that envelops the Black child; who often sees the light but is prevented from being in the light.

How can we celebrate independence, when our children are not yet free? They exist as Americans, but are yet not American. At best they are tolerated, an annoyance that must receive permission to enjoy the fruits of liberty that their white peers enjoy unencumbered.

What to our Black children is the Fourth of July?

Every day our Black children live conditional lives, existing between the margins of anticipation and despair. Our children navigate the suspicious glare, absorb the blows of weaponized words, feel the resentment in hostile spaces, and exercise Christ-like patience against a daily barrage of insults, slights and objectification that comes with being a Black child in America. They wake up expecting the worse and exhale when sunset arrives uneventful and a quiet day transitions into a peaceful night.

Our Black boys are tagged criminals from the crib, deemed threats to society as children, labeled thugs as they approach adolescence, and face a life of being demonized as Black men. Our Black girls are equally oppressed, given little support, disciplined in schools at rates that far exceed white girls, harassed and ostracized for the audacity of identifying with their culture, and have their childhood stripped by a society that places adult burdens upon our girls. Their futures dependent upon the extent of magic they can perform in excess of the indignities they will face as Black women. The reverence for this nation that it expects our children to exhibit in the face of the stripping of their humanity is a blindness from which America suffers. The descendants of the very people whose blood, bones, flesh and tears built America are treated as collateral damage by a society that enjoys benefits it has not earned.

Our bright, gifted and talented Black children walk through the same schoolhouse door as their white classmates but are then shuffled into remedial classes, daily told they are not capable, made to feel inferior, set upon and then labeled ‘difficult,’ branded as a behavioral problem, shoved into the prison pipeline and meet constant discouragement from adults seemingly intent on destroying our children’s confidence. What liberty exists for a Black child who is denied educational opportunity in the reflection of their ancestors who faced death for daring to read? Just as the spirit of the enslaved was often broken by their oppressors, our Black children suffocate under the weight of constant harassment and abuse. Are we to celebrate on Independence Day or tend to our wounded children?

Did freedom ring for Tamir, for Trayvon, for Michael, for Bianca and countless Black children whose only offense in the eyes of this nation was their blackness? Are we to celebrate on this date or mourn? Is there liberty for our dead? As we commit our beautiful Black children to the earth, broken, bullet-ridden bodies – should we not also bury the Constitution? Is it not also dead? Is the Declaration of Independence a cruel joke? Are these just words on parchment; meaningless relics in a nation that declares with a vengeance that Black lives don’t matter. Is freedom not dead when our children cannot walk the streets or drive or shop or breathe without fear that their mere presence will provoke a threat upon their lives? How are we to celebrate on this day when our children even being recognized as 3/5ths is progress against their daily degradation? The freedom America celebrates on its day of independence is the very freedom denied our children.

The mistreatment and suffering of our children is such that almighty God, and all the hosts of heaven, must weep. If the fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much, we must pray incessantly like Jesus in Gethsemane and rise up like David, prepared to vanquish the enemy.

“Must we declare like Douglass - 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 everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival?”

Must we declare like Douglass - 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 everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival?

Independence Day is a day to speak truth to our children. We dare not wave the flag or face being called a hypocrite by our offspring. We dare not conceal the pain Black people have suffered, the sacrifices Black people have made in the name of America, the unreturned loyalty we have exhibited for a country that has watched us die on the battlefield and treated us as strangers in our own land. This is a day of resistance. It is a day of defiance, a day of declaration of our intent to fight, and die if necessary, for our Black children.

What to our Black children is the Fourth of July? It is the fourth day of the month, that followed the third, and precedes the fifth, and like every day before and thereafter is a day in which we fight for the humanity of our children and refuse to surrender their lives to the hate that hides behind the flag.


Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.

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