The Fourth of July is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s what some may call an “American tradition” to jubilantly celebrate the day with firework shows, barbecues, and red, white, and blue printed everything. But for any American that doesn’t benefit from the privilege of a typical White identity, the day leaves a bitter after taste.
why would we celebrate 4th of July when All Days Matter?
— Dennis Exotic (@dennis_R4) July 2, 2020
As a Muslim woman, the claim of “independence” is incredulous to me. Independence in my definition does not include unrightful surveillance. It does not include the invasive procedures taken every time I enter an airport to ensure that my Muslim-ness doesn’t pose a threat to travelers. Independence is never in the sense of stolen autonomy that swells every time a Muslim woman’s hijab is torn from her head. There is no independence in the shame little Muslim boys feel when slurs are hurled at them in schools that are supposed to keep them safe. There was never independence in the bound hands of a Muslim man being deported to a land he’s never stepped foot in when he has every right to this “land of the free.” Does the independence garnered from Britain over 200 years ago still hold true for Americans today? I think not.
How can I take part in showcasing patriotism for this country when it does not guarantee safety for my Black brothers and sisters just trying to go for a run, reach for a wallet, or wear a black hoodie? Is it even morally acceptable to celebrate a country in a time when its leaders are okay with denying the sanctity of childrens’ lives simply because they were not born within the same borders? I don’t think so. There was no independence in the death of another Black man denied his right to live. There will never be independence in a mother’s cries for her baby as they are pulled away from each other. If there is independence in the ear splitting shriek of schoolchildren hiding behind textbooks with the barrel of a gun staring them down, then it’s not an independence I am willing to take pride in.
I yearn for the day that I can wear this country’s colors knowing that all its citizens are safe and valued. But that day is not today, nor can I see it in the near future. I want to raise my children in a country that goes out of its way to make sure they know that they are welcome too, in all their Muslim glory. I want to live in a country that will celebrate my veteran father regardless of his olive complexion and Muslim name. I want to celebrate a country that takes accountability for its past and strives to make up for it through more than just empty apologies and false promises for a better future.
Take a look around you.: Is this the country your ancestors were dreaming of when they decided to take a chance at a better life? Does this country fight for all of your friends and family? This 4th of July weekend, don’t mindlessly scroll past the news stories of another preventable injustice without first finding out how you can use your own privilege to help out. If you are going to celebrate your patriotism this year, make sure you’re celebrating the ongoing fight for independence for the 40% of America that doesn’t happen to be White.