July 4 is a significant day in American history as the day of Independence and freedom but for many black Americans, they are still dealing with social injustice on a daily basis like what happened to George Floyd among countless others. It is a sad reality when trying to reconcile the tentacles of the Declaration of Independence. A day in history with so much importance seems so irrelevant to many Americans who are forced to deal with the pain of inequality as a normal way of life. When people are mishandled simply because of who they love, the color of their skin, or their religion of choice, freedom is not part of the equation. This does not erase the continued mission of America to live up to the promise of freedom the country has declared. However, it also does not eliminate the pain of a hope not realized.
As social media filled the internet with mixed feelings surrounding Independence Day, some felt as if people were going too deep in their emotions. The United States of America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, but it is hard to rationalize a holiday centered on freedom when many have not yet achieved a position of equality or the respect expressed by documents Americans hold so dear. As long as there is sociological, economic, judicial, political, and institutionalized discrimination it will remain difficult to grasp the “greatness” of America or the hype of its independence.
As it stands, Independence Day still does not equal freedom for many Americans. These days, it seems the concepts of liberty and freedom are under attack. While some are celebrating the virtues of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, others are still reaching to “qualify” for the benefits of these rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
America is a great country filled with possibilities. However, as long as police brutality, mass incarceration, mental slavery, LGBTQ discrimination, and unjust attacks on religious communities still exist it will remain difficult for some to declare independence. After the world witnesses a modern lynching of Floyd, Black America officially broke. A cry for help has been going on for over 400 years and no progress. As a black-owned brand, the CEO and Founder of sassmouth, TaChelle Lawson asks:
How can blacks be expected to celebrate Independence Day when our right to exist is not even respected? The time for apologies is over. Now is the time to act. The Black community doesn’t need apologies and prayers. We need people that are committed to making this country one we can all be proud to call home.
As George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests spread across the country, President Donald Trump has threatened to militarily suppress the protests, and also to re-criminalize flag burning, which has become part of many protests. Earlier this month, Trump asked the Supreme Court to reconsider Texas v. Johnson, the 1989 ruling that made flag burning a constitutionally protected speech. During Trump’s June 20 Tulsa rally, he said, “We ought to come up with legislation that if you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year,” and called flag burning “desecration.” Trump condemned protesters in Portland who he said, “ripped down a statue of George Washington and wrapped in an American flag and set the American flag on fire.”
Gregory “Joey” Johnson, the defendant in Texas v Johnson, responded to President Donald Trump”s call to re-criminalize flag burning. He said:
F–k Donald Trump! He’s a fascist, a white supremacist, a misogynist, and a xenophobic, jingoistic, American chauvinist imperialist. I have nothing but contempt for him and support for the hundreds of thousands who are in the streets and staying in the streets following the brutal and sickening police murder of George Floyd. This has rocked Trump’s fascist regime back on its heels and now the regime is trying to re-seize the initiative through threats and repression.
I am determined to defy Trump on July 4th, by burning an American flag at a fitting symbol of Trump and his fascist regime. And I’m calling on everyone who stands against injustice and oppression to join me. Be safe, don’t endanger others, but wherever you are in this country or around the world, help make this July 4th a day of defiant flag burning actions! Then let others know by posting photos and videos on social media with the hashtags #July4BurnFlag and #FlagBurningChallenge.
“The New York Times” has called Johnson “America’s Most Famous Flagburner.” His 1989 Supreme Court case (Texas v Johnson) established the Constitutional right to burn the American flag in protest and extended First Amendment rights. In June, Johnson won a $225,000 legal settlement from the city of Cleveland stemming from his 2016 arrest for burning an American flag at the Republican Convention as Trump was being nominated. On July 4, 2019, Gregory “Joey” Johnson was arrested for burning an American flag in front of the White House. The charges were later dropped.
Freedom is a crucial part of the American dream and is owed to Americans by right, and by virtue of the very creed that America professes to represent, “All men are created equal.” The freedom that all Americans should celebrate on Independence Day is one that men fought and died to achieve. Currently, Independence Day may not equal freedom for everyone, but the hope is that all of America will come to recognize that the benefits of the holiday belong to all Americans regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
TaChelle Lawson: Founder and CEO of sassmouth
Rise Up: July 4th in DC
Communities Digital News: Being Black on Independence Day
Top Image Courtesy of Jennifer Parr’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Pfc. Cory D. Polom – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Steve Corey’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License