My 1st Anti-racist 4th

I’ve been dreading this holiday for weeks.

Normally, I’m here for it all- friends, family, food, fireworks. I’m big on tradition; have been my whole life. And there’s just something so simple and fun about the 4th. I love the expectation and fanfare of it all.

The thing about tradition is its comforting rhythm. It takes the decision making out of it. It means one less thing I have to make a choice about, and as someone who suffers from severe decision fatigue, that’s so appealing to me.

But this year can’t be on autopilot.

It didn’t occur to me until this year that July 4, 1776, the day we now celebrate as Independence Day, did not find all US citizens independent. I mean, of course I knew people were enslaved; it just didn’t connect for me that not all US citizens now would see this as a day to celebrate. It literally never crossed my mind. Getting to be ignorant, whether accidentally or willfully, is the ultimate in privilege.

I started to wonder… Should our celebration look different this year? Do we even celebrate at all? How should this reality be reflected in how we spend our day?

Here’s where I’ve landed, at least for now. We’re moving forward with most of our traditions- family will still gather, we’ll still play and eat and ooh and aah at the general splendor of the magic of fireworks.

Because, while I may not be feeling especially patriotic right now, I love our nation, and I’m thankful for the many who have served to protect it. So we’ll take today to spend time with people we love and express gratitude for the many freedoms we enjoy.

And I’ll teach my kids the truth- that on this day 244 years ago, as the US celebrated independence, less than 8% of Black humans were free. That about ten years later, enslaved people would count as 3/5 of a person in our Constitution. That slavery didn’t end with the Civil War, and racism didn’t end with the movement for Civil Rights. That they were born with privilege into an unjust society, and loving our country means helping to fulfill its promise to ensure liberty and justice for all. And that following Jesus means showing compassion, standing up for justice, and treating our neighbors, who have been made in the very image of God, with dignity, respect, and love.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Novel Peace Prize acceptance speech
Oslo, Norway 1964

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