Black America’s Quest for True Independence Runs Deeper Than July 4

After centuries in America, Blacks now understand the difference between freedom and independence.
by Al Brown (Minneapolis Recorder)

After centuries in America, Blacks now understand the difference between freedom and independence.

As fireworks sizzle in the night sky and proud waves of red, white, and blue banners decorate the streets, the United States celebrates Independence Day. For most, it is a time of historic joy, reveling in the storied past of a young nation’s fierce resolve for freedom from colonial rule.

But for many African Americans, July 4 often carries a weight of reflection and critical introspection—a reminder of an unfulfilled promise and a stark acknowledgment of a nation’s ongoing struggle with its inclusive ideals, wrestling for white freedom but synchronizing efforts to further dehumanize Indigenous Natives and those of African descent brought here by force to exploit their labor.

As quoted and written countless times, the core of America’s Declaration of Independence is its clarion call for “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” an inspiring doctrine that envisioned a land where all men were equal and free from tyranny. Yet, history paints a starkly different picture of African Americans. From chattel slavery to the Jim Crow era and from the civil rights struggle to the systemic inequities still pervading our society in 2024, the journey to equality and inclusion has been fraught with profound and enduring obstacles.

At the heart of this harsh and shameless crudeness lies the brutal truth that the inception of American independence did not include Black lives within its emancipatory promise. While white Americans celebrated their freedom from British rule, African people were shackled in chains, brutally subjugated, and considered mere property. For over 500 years, the shadow of this historical injustice has lingered, casting an “otherworldly weight” upon African Americans, an indelible albatross tied to the pursuit of their true independence.

Even today, the disparities between whites and nonwhites are glaring and deeply embedded within the fabric of our political, religious, economic, and social systems. From biased policing and racial profiling to wage gaps, disparities in education, and barriers to health care, the echoes of systemic racism resonate across every facet of life. The dream of an America where everyone truly enjoys equal opportunity, and rights remains elusive—more so for the Black community, which continues to bear the brunt of these systemic inequities.

It’s a bitter reality that, for every step forward, African Americans have had to fight. From the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which sought to eradicate segregation and secure voting rights, to the more recent Black Lives Matter movement, which protests against police brutality and systemic racism, Black Americans have continuously struggled to reclaim their rightful place in the society they helped to build. Yet, acceptance often translates to tolerating African Americans only in limited capacities, frequently relegating them to menial roles while denying them access to true equality and power.

The disparities today tell the story: African American unemployment rates are significantly higher than those of their white counterparts; Black households possess substantially less wealth than white households; and African Americans are disproportionately adversely affected by the criminal justice system. This isn’t an ancient relic of a bygone era; these are contemporary America’s raw, harsh realities.

A call for reparative justice

Expecting African Americans to fully embrace independence celebrations may be a bridge too far, as collectively, they’ve never experienced it as their white counterparts. White America must reckon with the truth that true independence for Black Americans will only come with reparative justice.

Reparations are not merely about monetary compensation; they are about acknowledging the centuries of exploitation and oppression and taking concrete steps to rectify this historical and ongoing injustice. It’s about ensuring that the descendants of those who were forcibly brought to these shores and brutalized for generations receive their capitalistic inheritance —a recognition of the invaluable ancestral contributions to the nation and a commitment to dismantling the systems that continue to oppress their descendants.

In a capitalist society, capital is crucial. Without addressing the economic disparities birthed from the shackles of slavery and perpetuated through systemic racism, African Americans will not achieve true independence until a debt owed by this government is paid. Reparations could mean investment in education, health care, housing, and business opportunities for Black communities—a foundational step towards leveling the playing field and enabling African Americans to pursue their lives, liberty, and happiness.

True independence will be attained the day America fulfills its long-touted promise to all its citizens inclusively, equitably, and justly. Until then, the call for reparations remains a poignant and powerful symbol—a step toward healing, justice, and true independence for African Americans. It is a call for the nation to finally live up to its creed and, in doing so, kindle the spirit of Independence Day for every American.

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