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African American with American Flag
We still dream today for what could have been
Each Fourth of July, I see as if for the first time the beauty of our flag, and the universality of the love for our country that far too many Americans show far too infrequently. And, without fail, I re-read the extraordinary beautiful prose of our America's Declaration of Independence.

And each year, I cry.

Mine is a bittersweet cry, born from love of country, and from rage against country.

To cope with my reverent pain, in the face of reading the literary and philosophical dream that is the Constitution of our great country, each Fourth of July I let myself dream a little dream.

I dream of what our nation would have been, could have been, should have been, had all the grievances against King George III that our Founding Fathers been aired in indeliable print with that same brave collective voice that demanded, as divine right, "Liberty or Death!":

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another...
Follow below the fold for more.

This passionate language affirming the God-given right of human dignity is not alchemy.  It is not fantasy. It is, instead, history. The paragraph above was originally included in the recitation of grievances against King George included in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence submitted to the Continental Congress by Thomas Jefferson on July 1, 1776.

It raged in moral horror against the system of chattel slavery as practiced by King George's empire, and in no uncertain moral terms grounded America's birth in, at least in part, an overt desire to end the inherent godlessness of the institution of chattel slavery as a violation of Christianity itself. It noted the religious hypocrisy even as it made clear that the notation was enlightened self-interest and the goal was, in part, to avoid a logical end that the king himself allegedly encouraged: rage and revenge flowing from oppressed to oppressor.

This declaration against slavery, as originally drafted, makes clear that, from the beginning of our nation the question of What to Do With the African has been at the very heart of our national identity.  

But it was rejected, and deleted. And forgotten—even by those who each Fourth of July, open the hearts and say We are All Americans, today. Most of us have never been taught about this missing paragraph; it is unimportant, because it is absent. And, because of its absence, the day of liberty, of freedom, of independence, the day in which all men of the United States could truly embrace the rights given to them by the Creator to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was deferred, for 87 years after the eloquence of our Founding Fathers and their utopian vision was first heard the world over.  Eighty-nine years if you include the Great State of TexasTM.

Today, it is this knowing of the truth about what was, and what could have been in America that many African-Americans contend with on the Fourth of July. Many of us do not even celebrate the holiday since, after all, it has nothing to do with our rights, our freedom, our independence from anyone. That date is celebrated today in the form of Juneteenth. But most do. After all, we are still Americans. We built this country even as most of us were excluded from its utopian promise for nearly 100 years legally, and arguably, still are nearly 230 years later.

The love-hate relationship that many African-Americans have with the Fourth of July is not a historical artifact. It continues to plague us as a people, and at times can be quite confusing, even to those like myself who consider themselves well-informed, well-educated and American:

Black Folks' Complex Relationship to the Fourth of July

The pain from our love of America probably stems from the knowledge that the greatest of the great Americans, including the Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and their progency, including the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln himself, never wanted us to be part of America. They wanted us Away. Other. Outside, because America was not for us, even though the chattel enslavement of millions had in fact built America, in large part:

The Efforts to Send Us Away

So when I think of what the Fourth of July means to me, what it means to many black folks like me, I am left confused. How can anyone fail to love the vision of America set forth in the Declaration of Independence? How can anyone not be stirred to the depths of their very soul, reading the steadfast passion with which the Founding Fathers asserted the inalienable rights of man? How can African-Americans feel anything but the same love, even as we hate the bastardization of the founding vision of America to further a new king's agenda—the agenda of King Cotton?

It's hard to love something so much yet hate it so much at the same time. Yet it is important for African-Americans in particular to confront that hardness, to face the vision of America even as we continue to hold it to task for what has been done to us, and continues to be done to us. It is our unique experience of America that calls us, especially, to work to solve its problems, including the problems of poverty and race. Because, Dr. King once said, in a sermon he delivered on the Fourth of July, 40 years ago, called The American Dream:

And I tell you this morning, my friends, the reason we got to solve this problem here in America: Because God somehow called America to do a special job for mankind and the world. (Yes, sir, Make it plain) Never before in the history of the world have so many racial groups and so many national backgrounds assembled together in one nation. And somehow if we can’t solve the problem in America the world can’t solve the problem, because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large. And God set us out with all of the opportunities. He set us between two great oceans; made it possible for us to live with some of the great natural resources of the world. And there he gave us through the minds of our forefathers a great creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
That is the burden of being American, a burden that we should celebrate today even as we celebrate America itself. Each of us are called to do our small part, whether the personal or political.

I am 52 years old, 53 soon. I have reared three children with God's guidance, two of whom are grown, one nearly so. They have been blessed with keen intellect, physical beauty and brilliant minds even though each is taking fundamentally different paths in life. Yet I cannot overlook that their path has been different from mine, yet still too familiar. In our one family, we have different Experiences of AmericaTM.  To my immigrant husband, America is The Arrogant Master of the UniverseTM, but also "My Wife's Home, and now Mine." To my children, of mixed racial and religious heritage, their vision of America is born of the hopeful cynicism that is sometimes created when one is born of a politically passionate black mother and white father, when one faces both the benefits and the burdens in a world in which they have personally largely escaped the trials of being black because of their birth, yet still suffer the indignities of the friends and neighbors they live next to, because they are not so fortunate. They are both blessed and cursed.

And to me, the most patriotic of us all, America is ... Home.The Home that despite my parents' blackness nonetheless yielded, through their passionate determination, a chance to send their eldest daughter to the best public high schools, best private colleges and best law schools in the country. That allowed my parents at least the semblance of the potentiality of freedom, even as they grew up dirt poor in the segregated sharecropping Deep South and could not access that concept of freedom for themselves. The closest they got to a glimpse of it, even, came only after each separately fled to the North. Yet even there, their blackness meant that life was for the most part only freedom from, not freedom to, when it came to living their dreams.

So on the Fourth of July, I spend the day thinking about my (recently late) father, the man who but for Jim Crow and poverty could have been a brilliant mathematician. About my mother, dead nearly nine years now, and her love of the flag and Fourth of July, despite having gone to secretarial school, wanting to go into business someday and finding no one who would hire her into an office when she arrived in first Kentucky and then New York City.  

I think about the life faced by the tens of millions, today, in a country that despite all we have given it thinks about We Who Are Dark last, if at all, when it comes to making choices about what to fight for. The America whose behavior makes clear that it values us only what we can still give in true "what have you done for me lately?" fashion and demands routinely that we convey our political power to whatever cause it deems most important while allowing us to ask for nothing overt in return as a reward for our loyalty. Forgetting what we have already given, the millions of us whose ancestors were brought here against their will to build this land largely for free (not as immigrants since that is a voluntary condition; do folks know how wounding it is when folks' political cry is "we are all immigrants?", given that?) as chattel. I think about how America and Americans value what we have already given so little that one cannot even discuss the idea of reparations with friend and foe alike for the most part.

I cry, yet again, thinking about this.

Yet despite it all, I still love America. Not for what it has been, to me, and to mine. I rail against it for its failings, and always will until it does right by our people (and Native Americans, who too have suffered similar—worse—fates as it relates to their culture and collective survival). But, nonetheless, it doesn't stop me from wanting desperately to be part of the original, unedited vision of equality that appeared in the draft Declaration. The vision that has never had a chance, not really, to actually operate on the ground. I think that is true for many of us African-Americans who are politically involved, at whatever level, when we have our quiet moments of reflection. This is not because of what America is today. It is instead for what America could have been, and might still be even as we may well not live to see it.  

The Fourth of July reminds me why I fight for the dream of America, even as I fight against it's reality. I fight because America is my Home. By choice.

Happy Fourth of July, one and all.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and White Privilege Working Group.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Liberty & Justice for All -------- (33+ / 0-)

    hollow words to anyone who has been railroaded in kangaroo kourt and wrongfully imprisoned by evil predators wearing black robes and titles of nobility "honorable".

    (It will continue to get worse as the conservative, fascist,  plutocratic authoritarians embracing the police state/fascist idiocracy/corporate kleptocracy subvert representative democracy and the Constitutional Rule of Law.)

  •  It's good to remember all this (5+ / 0-)

    Many of the anti-slavery, anti-corporate, anti-wealth concentration, anti-banking etc. writings of Founding Fathers and later figures like Lincoln, are much brushed aside in favor of the same carefully focused cannon.

  •  The contrast between the dream and the reality is (16+ / 0-)

    heartbreaking. I am one of the privileged in this country--white Anglo-Saxon Protestant and well educated, but in the eyes of today's SCOTUS, I am still a second-class citizen. Unless you can over the Bering land bridge 20,000 years ago, you are an immigrant (some by choice, others by force). It just breaks my heart to see the way those mothers and infants were treated this week? Why is this nation so full of hate? We had the opportunity to start history over again, and we seem determined to return to feudalism.

  •  John Rutledge's rants about (4+ / 0-)

    molasses, rum and slaves were seeds that were planted for the Civil War, Jim Crow, and most of the other discrimination blacks faced

  •  we cannot even begin (21+ / 0-)

    to discuss how to approach our ideal america of the future unless we be honest with ourselves about the realities of the america of the past and present. this country's very constitution encoded slavery. this country's borders were established through genocide and imperial conquest. it took more than a century before women were allowed to participate in governance.

    this country's true history of progress has been an ongoing conflict between forces of the most extreme regression and those of the most lofty ideals. despite the fantasies, mythologies, and flat out delusions that we have fallen from some golden era of the past, the ideal america is not something we have lost, it is something we have yet to attain.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:19:45 AM PDT

  •  The US is exceptional for many not so noble (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, justiceputnam, shanikka, jeannew

    reasons; but, I'm glad to be vertical and part of the discussion; I vote when I can and take a hike when the bullshit gets too deep.

  •  So powerful and moving and complex (12+ / 0-) larger truths usually are.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Moved to tears here.

    "All all of the women — Democratic women I should say — of the Senate urged Hillary Clinton to run, and I hope she does. Hillary is terrific." Elizabeth Warren on ABC's "This Week."

    by cassandraX on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:21:38 AM PDT

    •  Thanks, Cassandra (6+ / 0-)

      I didn't mean to make anyone cry - just reflect and empathize.  It's not an easy subject for me, the Fourth of July.

      At this point, I just want America to admit that it still doesn't want its Black citizens to live in any state other than terror, subservience and inferiority, under pain of death. I can handle American racism, but I can't handle American denial.

      by shanikka on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:59:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am the same way about (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shanikka, cassandraX, Vita Brevis

        Veteran's Day and Memorial Day when I consider my grandfathers, my uncles, my older brother, myself and now my daughter...and so many african-americans past and present and, most likely, future... who have served the America that never was proudly and with distinction... from the first man to die for the liberty Jefferson so eloquently enumerated in the Declaration to every black soldier, sailor, airman and marine who has fought and bled and died for the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        There are many who cannot fathom why I or any other african-american would serve at all...particularly knowing the historic and ongoing hostility towards us... and it is hard to put into words why an america that has been, at best, disloyal to us should receive this kind of loyalty...

        It is, indeed, complicated...

        Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

        by awesumtenor on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:20:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  i cried too, sis shanikka (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peregrine kate, shanikka

        gorgeous writing, and all too true

        i cry for my grandfather who, but for Jim Crow, could have been an engineer (both kinds).

        his parents were slaves.  he never had a birth certificate.  he was almost completely self taught.   he did not make it out of grammar school, but he had all kinds of mechanical intelligence.  think of the guy in Stanley and Iris, except my grandfather did know how to read.  he loved "reading for knowledge" (as opposed to reading for pleasure).  one of my most frequent early childhood memories is of watching him read the dictionary.

        in a different world he would have had more time for his tennis (not sure where he managed to pick that up) and his creative hobbies.

        i still own a desk that he made out of an old TV cabinet (i smile realizing that the younguns have no idea what a TV cabinet is).  among other things, he designed a blade sharpening machine that was given away when the family let go of my childhood home.  i'd give anything to have it back, but the person who got it (let's call him W) was not a friend of the family (long story) and W is now dead and I don't know whether his relatives saved it or even knew what it was.

        my grandfather could have been an inventor.  instead he contented himself with the frequent praise of his baby daughter, my mom, who always said "my daddy can fix anything".  and she was right.  he was so ingenious about coming up with ways to fix things.

        he also enjoyed playing the piano and could have been a songwriter too.  in fact, he always told us that he had written several famous songs that were stolen from him.

        instead he spent most of his work life as a Porter on trains.  hard work.  steady money.  he fed his wife and four children (and helped out his sister and her children) all through the Depression, but still.  his name was not George.

        he knew he was smart and he read all the manuals and he kept asking to take the engineer exam.  they finally let him.

        they told him he failed.

        but after that they kept asking him to help train young white guys who came along.  right up until he retired and turned his newly found leisure time to his basement workroom and growing beautiful roses in the backyard.

        he passed along some ways of thinking to me--in the times I spent watching him in and out of his workroom.  i am good at improvising ways to fix things.  i am good at finding more efficient ways to do things.  i used to read encyclopedias for fun--got that from him too.  I am still fascinated by how and why things work.  When I spend a whole weekend afternoon watching a How It's Made marathon I know he would have loved TV shows like that.

        his life was, on balance, relatively happy.  but he worked long hard hours and had to smile in people's faces for tips.  for decades.

        in a fair world he might have been an engineer of one kind or the other.  Or sold one of his inventions and had a life of Renaissance Man leisure with his piano and his roses and his tennis.

        and people who called him by his real name.

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 03:48:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this moving, beautifully written (14+ / 0-)

    essay, shanikka. It provides much food for thought in addition to illustrating starkly how differently black people and white people experience the idea and reality of America.

    But "I do believe, deep in my heart, that we shall overcome" the racism in America one day.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:23:43 AM PDT

  •  We're worse than England was by many measures; (8+ / 0-)

    we have not come close to the ideals that have been set out.

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:26:39 AM PDT

  •  Wow. (14+ / 0-)

    Beautiful and painful.


    Am off to read again.

    Thank you.

    In our criminal justice system, a Republican is presumed innocent until the 2nd Coming. - Gooserock

    by ExpatGirl on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:27:39 AM PDT

  •  {{{{shanikka}}}} (19+ / 0-)

    You have put into words the tangle of emotions I have always felt about this day. The complexity, the good, the bad, the ugly, the beauty. The loss of what more could have been , the celebration of what is, and the promise of what is to come. The past, the present, the future. The pain of ancestors and the joy of descendants.

    I do celebrate this day and the ideals we strive for. We can never be "exceptional" ( and I reject the traditional definition of American exceptionalism but can't think of a better word that describes the social experiment our nation is) without fully acknowledging our history. All of it.

    For me ( and I am only speaking for myself and not judging others who choose not to celebrate this day) I celebrate because not to is to cede this country to those who think we're not a part of it. We've sweat and bled too much for me to cede that ground.

    So yes, Happy Fourth of July, but let us know our full history.

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:27:54 AM PDT

  •  "Home"... (10+ / 0-)

    ...such a small word, and it means so much. More when it is so by choice.

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:32:06 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you Shannika for posting this. It is up to us all to demand that this country lives up it its founding ideals and to see to it that these ideals are there for all. And it is the responsibility for all Caucasian-Americans to stand up against racism and to be continuously anti-racist, because if you are not an anti-racist, you are at the very least tacitly supporting racism. Knowledge and awareness along with a bit of courage and honesty are key.

    Randian for me means "Prince Randian" from the 1930s horror classic Freaks and is not a reference to libertarianism.

    by Randian on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:37:13 AM PDT

  •  you may appreciate this diary from yesterday: (6+ / 0-)

    It is ironic that the British Empire abolished slavery in 1833, three decades before the American Civil War. Had we lost to the Brits in 1776, the slaves would have been freed sooner than they actually were.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:38:06 AM PDT

    •  I not so sure that the experience would have (5+ / 0-)

      been so different. The British Empire was not exactly black friendly in South Africa.

      In our criminal justice system, a Republican is presumed innocent until the 2nd Coming. - Gooserock

      by ExpatGirl on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:44:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is Ironic (6+ / 0-)

      I don't, however, make any assumptions about our experience being meaningfully different there post-emancipation.  Remember, after all, that while white slave owners were compensated by the Crown, all slaves over the age of 6 were deemed "apprentices" and were indentured for a minimum of 6 years post-1833.  As were the case here, these indentures did not necessarily end after that time, because the 'apprentice' of course was given nothing but his own labor to pay for anything provided by his 'employer'.  This is the same cycle that occurred here, although you are definitely correct that legally slavery ended much earlier there - and you can't overlook the human soul impact of that fact alone.

      At this point, I just want America to admit that it still doesn't want its Black citizens to live in any state other than terror, subservience and inferiority, under pain of death. I can handle American racism, but I can't handle American denial.

      by shanikka on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:54:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for a great, great dairy. (6+ / 0-)

        You have captured the same feeling I have for this county. For myself a double whammy of being a violin playing black man.
        Growing up outcast of 2 societies, too light for blacks, too black for whites, somehow my mother prepared us for the world we grew up into.
        I have always thought the Founding Fathers did a great job of setting up this country but men have failed. I cry at what could have been. Unfortunately, greed has replaced many of our values. Lying and cheating has become the new standard of the oligarchs. Our first black president has become the object of racism. The Constitution treated like a rag.

        I still believe we can become that great country again, I will not give up on America. I do want my country back.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

        by GustavMahler on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 09:38:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Don't Know If This Will Help... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, shanikka

        {{{shanikka}}} (I hope I'm not offending, as I'm not sure what the curly brackets represent, but I read those as signs of affection. Amirite?) I do care for your plight, for what it's worth, and the depth and sincerity of your diary.

        About your sig., how? do we recruit whites who do not feel the way you describe about black folks, and who put themselves in check whenever hidden racism or white privilege raises it's ugly heads, are wanting the prejudice against black folks to go away, and who are not in denial about this clinging racism and its effects to the cause of ending this ignorance?

        I see racism as ultimately destructive to any culture, as diversity is a real strength if acknowledged and acted on.

        At this point, I just want the racists in America to admit... which, by adding the word 'racists' marginalizes the pain here. Not good. But this white family is down with what you say about the America you describe. We can't be the only ones! (In fact, I know we aren't, since I/we - my wife and I - just cannot hang out/be friends with racists so none of our white friends carry that burden.)

        The British ended slavery in the Empire without a war, although without just initially freeing the slaves, as you point out. The British were pushed by Christian groups, mainly Quakers and other Protestants, that formed the abolitionist movement. Some British thinking on the matter of slavery developed out of their culture.

        In his judgment of 22 June 1772, Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Court of the King's Bench declared:

        "The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged."

        That decision is based on the premise that since slavery was not specifically allowed through a British law stating its existence, it was thus not allowable.

        No law specifically allowing slavery was put forth in the US at the time of independence, it was just inferred (3/5 of a person etc.). Why did the two nations go in such different directions, morally, when it came to chattel slavery? Why did the US intentionally demonize and displace Native Americans to make room for white expansion?

        If it was greed, which I believe it ultimately was in the US, what about the British character allowed the greed impulse to be overridden and slavery ended through law and not a bloody war as in the US, a war who's bitterness hangs on today, and which disproves, for me, American Exceptionalism.

        Thank you! shanikka for getting this guy to dig a little deeper on my mother's birthday, and Independence Day!

        President Obama must have to cross his fingers when he talks about believing in American Exceptionalism.

        As Tupac memorialized, 'keep your head up.'

        God's preference is for more people to be included, (not excluded through doctrine),...whenever the circle is shrinking, where people are being excluded or disliked, God is not served. -Rev. Alice Connor

        by paz3 on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 11:05:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  great? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanikka, Schneewolfe

    America is great because it had physical advantages--natural resources--peaceful weak neighbors--and thus, America became a rich nation--called a great nation.  That's macro--micro, we suck--always have--and getting worse.  Be you immigrant, non white, a woman, a non Christian, etc.--or especially Native American-- you were second class--expected to be thrilled to be wealthier than most other folk--as if money is the aim of life.  Self actualization should be the standard, and using that metric, America ain't cutting it.
     Money is becoming even more powerful, and our future is more in doubt.  Whatever we accomplish, the Robert's court will eviscerate.  If we want change, we need to become combative--workers need to strike, voters need to vote, consumers need to boycott.  Our government has only taken strides reluctantly.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:45:54 AM PDT

    •  hyperbole (6+ / 0-)

      we are a nation of dichotomies and extremes in many ways, but we do not "suck" anymore than we are great at everything.  going to the other extreme to counter "American Exceptionalism" is understandable but flawed and false.

      I'll say that nothing in this diary is incorrect. As an AA, I've seen plenty of personal racism directed towards me in my time, and others, and institutional racism, while lessened is still there in many ways.

      We have a long way to go. But, for the sake of the whole picture, there's plenty that's different too. I won't go into it all, but I think being an AA in 2014 is a lot better than being an AA in 1964 or even 1984 all things considered.

      There's progress across a lot of fronts.  It's maddeningly slow, but it's there.  I look around the world, would I rather be Black in Russia? Hell no.  Brazil? Nope. Asia? Are you kidding me? Europe? Not really, they have their own racial history and an even deeper problem currently with racism and immigration than we have, and that's pretty hard to top.

      Racism isn't an American problem, it's a human problem.  America isn't "exceptional" in the way it's dealt with that problem unfortunately, but neither is it at the bottom of the barrel either.

      America has physical advantages yes, it also has a set of ideals that really are the pinnacle of humanity.  In fact, it is THOSE ideals that make folks so disappointed when we so often fall short of them.  But sometimes, we approach them, and we are always fighting for them, even if there are those among us who reject them in action, even as they try and embrace them in word.

      I love America for what it will be and can be a lot more than for what it currently is or what it has been.  I suspect that's the dichotomy the diarist is talking about/feeling.  Seeing what can be, and loving it, knowing what is, and being disappointed, knowing what has been, and being shocked and angered.  

      It's a progression.  Too slow. Too many backwards steps.  But that's humanity, that's how we roll. But to me, equality is inevitable because despite the steps back, it's all just delay to what's coming.  Last ditch actions by a minority clinging to power.

      •  change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Change will happen when old white men no longer can hoodwink "others" into thinking what's good for the rich and powerful is good for the nation.  Eventually, minority will be the majority--will they be exceptional, or will they turn the tables and emasculate the white minority?  
        Progress is not happening now, btw, schools are the future, and they are being privatized (chartered) to bypass Brown v Bd of Ed.

        Actions speak louder than petitions.

        by melvynny on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 10:32:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  beer and cookout day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanikka, Angie in WA State

    That's what I'm calling it this year. And at every single cookout, I'm going to talk about how 5 corrupt men in robes are stealing our freedom -reproductive rights and contraception protect both women AND men-  in the name of religion, and that the only way to stop it is to vote for democrats.

  •  Langston Hughes comes to mind (8+ / 0-)

    I see Langston has been mentioned above. But the poem that comes to mind is Let America be America:

    O, let America be America again—
    The land that never has been yet—
    And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
    The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
    Who made America,
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
    Must bring back our mighty dream again.

    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
    The steel of freedom does not stain.
    From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
    We must take back our land again,

    This has always been pretty much a do as I say, not as I do country, full of noble aspiration and pathetically weak on followthrough. One of the last advanced nations to ban slavery, one of the last to maintain racial laws, one of the worst when it comes to the right to assemble and social insurance, one of the most aggressive in war and timid in enforcing human rights... and yet, it has always produced inspirational leaders who have touched the rest of the world, if not the calloused hearts of those who are too rich and too secure for their own good.  Langston again:

    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem...
     all the stretch of these great green states—
    And make America again!

    •  Such great lines from (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shanikka, Ahianne, TrueBlueMajority

      Langston 'We must take back our land again, America!' and 'make America again!'. Oh, what America could be!

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

      by GustavMahler on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 09:41:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hughes clearly understood... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, shanikka

        Langston Hughes clearly understood the need to reach across racial, gender, and class divides in order to solve the problems caused by excessive power. The abuse of Africans (later African Americans) and Native Americans (not to mention Hispanics, Asians, women, children, the poor, etc.) was possible only because of the disproportionate power of a relative few Anglo men. As long as everyone looked first to their ethnicity, it was easy to divide and conquer. Once people see one another through the lens of shared suffering, the leeches have no chance.

  •  Thanks for you diary. (6+ / 0-)

    I was feeling kind of sad this morning--the first time I felt sad on July 4th! I felt sad because of the things I have seen happen in our country the past year(s). Your diary, however, has helped me today.

  •  Beautiful tribute, thanks. (5+ / 0-)

    Yes, we who aren't white males have an ambivalent relationship with much of the best history and tradition this culture has to offer.

    I never knew about the deleted paragraph in the Declaration of Independence. It's unfortunately not surprising that it was deleted, because of the times, and because the Founding Fathers, themselves, had, shall we say, ambivalent relationships towards slavery.

    Supple and turbulent, a ring of men/ Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn...

    by karmsy on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 09:08:58 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this Diary (7+ / 0-)

    I learned from it, I agreed with it, I am forced to consider the stark complexities in the origins of the Black American Experience in relationship to Freedom, and I am reminded AGAIN, that the Declaration of Freedom that Jefferson so eloquently and so hypocritically wrote, is not a fact, it is an aspiration.

    The Declaration was a document of aspiration, a seed, a possible future which would be, and still is, desperately fought over by the forces of economic oppression. The framers attempted to start a process whereby the economic forces of privilege were contained by popular sentiment and debate, called by them, a Republic.

    We are still working on it. We go ahead, and behind, in fits and starts, and must CONSTANTLY fight tooth and nail to enlarge the Dream of political and economic freedom. Contrary to the views of Conservatives, politics is always in the driver's seat now because of the Declaration of Independence.

    They hate it so much, because Lincoln used it as the basis of his re-interpretation of the Constitution. (Gary Wills, "The Words that Made America") and Martin Luther King used it as a basis for linking the Declaration to Christian Ideals. Their response? Since MLK, is to re-imagine the Old Testament as the entire text, forgetting the New Testament as critical to understanding the Declaration in the minds of the Framers. And now, we have a near-religious war on our hands, merely because the forces of economic oppression will never give up privilege voluntarily, as the framers knew. They must be forced by law, democratically derived. We still need the Declaration and Lincoln's framing, and MLK's framing of this most important document.  

    And so, we all reflect. Thank you for this enlargement of my own understanding.

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 09:36:55 AM PDT

  •  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts (6+ / 0-)

    on this, shanikka. Complex, nuanced, passionate, and thought-provoking, while also helping to build our sense of community as Americans. Understanding our history as a people means understanding it all. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to read this post.

  •  Outstanding diary. Thank you very much, shanikka. (6+ / 0-)
  •  "But it was rejected, and deleted. And forgotten" (6+ / 0-)

    thank you Sis - for teaching us to remember.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 10:51:18 AM PDT

  •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanikka, TrueBlueMajority

    It is not easy to reconcile all of the complex thoughts, feelings and emotions engendered by this often maddening and too seldom inspiring place we call home.
    To hold one's home in such a place of honor, respect and appreciation while, at the same time, holding it to account for failures, follies and favoritism can easily lead to as many tears as swelled chests.
    Thank you for putting this incredible conglomerate into your unique and passionate perspective.
    May you celebrate in joy and heal in peace.
    all the best.

  •  I'm weeping, really, weeping now after (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myboo, Ahianne, shanikka, TrueBlueMajority

    reading this.. this fucking masterpiece.

    I confess total ignorance of that deleted paragraph.

    After reading the Intro box, all my brain kept repeating was "holy shit, they COULD HAVE started America out without the fucking stain of slavery and didn't!!!!"

    I try my best to be color-blind to other people, judging only on what people actually do and say. But I've never, never felt that Reparations for slavery this long way down the road now, over 140 years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, was an appropriate conversation to have in the 21st century.

    Now? I'm not so sure any more.

    But I understand your love/hate relationship with America. I have one, too. Born of disgust at what is done in my name for decades now, by my Government. Raised on my growing distaste for the corruption of our Republic by unfettered money in politics. Activated by the horrendous act of the SCOTUS when just five men CHOSE whom our president would be in 2000.

    My children have the blood of First Peoples, Norweigans, Germans and English and my grandchildren add Latino to the mix. I only wish for them an America more fully fleshing out the dreams for a future posterity laid out in the Preamble

    We the People, of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 11:39:24 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for expressing your heart. (3+ / 0-)

    I have, for some time, thought about what a black American is thinking when the words of the DoI are read. With the words: "...all men are created equal..." yet the Founders deciding to keep slavery legal is something my brain and heart have a difficult time reconciling.

    You helped me to understand a little more of the tension between the two and how you feel.

    •  It is IMO what follows is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      where America's failure to live up to that ideal for many in general and for african-americans in particular is truly laid bare...

      that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

      Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

      by awesumtenor on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 04:10:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A really beautiful piece here. But may I please (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanikka, AaronInSanDiego

    add in the secular humanist view?

    Our rights are not given from God. This belief transmutes the responsibility for liberty from the People, to some abstract higher power.  Belief in some higher power accomplishes nothing in reality.

    Its the toil, sweat, and blood of many not-remembered humans that brings about the social institutions, conventions, and Govt in which liberty can be provided for.
    Its the evolution and genius of our species of animal that allows us to empathize, learn and thus improve our society over time.
    God didn't do that, We humans did that. 4 billion years of Earth evolution did that.

    Let us not denigrate this celebration of the achievements of our species that the 4th of July represents by pretending that it was not We that died in order to earn our present reality, but instead that it was given to us.

    "The Earth is my country and Science my religion" Christiaan Huygens. The gold standard ended on August 15, 1971, its time we start acting like it. If we can afford full employment killing Germans, we can afford full employment during peace-time.

    by Auburn Parks on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:06:06 PM PDT

  •  coincidentally, I was just flipping through channe (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, shanikka, TrueBlueMajority, fou

    this morning and saw a bit of the HBO miniseries, "John Adams", where Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were discussing that part of Jefferson's text, with Franklin warning that many in the Continental Congress would oppose it.

    Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:28:06 PM PDT

  •  OMFG! Does that mean... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that Michelle Bachmann was RIGHT?  

    “But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”
    Well, maybe "worked tirelessly" is a bit of an exaggeration.
     Perhaps it would be more accurate to say:
    "But we also know that the very founding fathers that wrote those documents briefly floated the idea of abolishing slavery, then gave up on it and allowed slavery to continue for almost 100 years, long after those founding fathers were all dead and buried, until slavery was no more in the United States."  
    Still:  "worked tirelessly" vs. "briefly floated the idea and then gave up"...a mere difference of semantics!

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