Happy White Peoples’ Independence Day?? What would Frederick Douglass Think?

If you can pull a bandage off an old wound and it hurts, that means it’s still not healed. Apparently, Chris Rock picked at a festering wound on the American body, based on the ‘ouch’ heard cross the nation.

The outrage over the Chris Rock 4th of July tweet, “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks” reminds me of a quote I once heard, “People will forgive you for everything under the sun except for telling the truth”. The range of responses have gone from Don Cheadle’s simple ‘haha’  to Jeff Schreiber’s  ‘go f*ck yourself” . Where has all the civil discourse gone? Why is there such venomous backlash to a simple, factually true tweet?

Apparently, it is a little known fact that Bill Moyers elaborated in text  on what Chris Rock alluded to. If someone was offended by reference to the conditions of slaves on the 4th of July (or any day for that matter), then Moyers’ quoting and commenting on an abolitionist indicting Thomas Jefferson, should have been incendiary. After all, Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Moreover, Chris Rock’s tweet echoed arguably one of the greatest abolitionists in American history, Frederick Douglass. One must never forget the written words of Douglass, a living witness to the celebrations of 4th of July festivities in the faces of slaves. We need only to read the “13th” paragraph which states, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.” I interpret Frederick Douglass’ response as a very loud f*ck you and your 4th of July, mo&erf*ckrs.

There is a combination of layers at work  First is the atmosphere of racial tension the generated by the election of an African American to be president. The reactive right in America sent forth an undercurrent of vilification  and the attitude of him not being a real American. Often ignorant and in possession of low-class mindsets, these whites are driven to extreme action.

Fear of inheriting a crippled world view of white supremacy. Moyers wrote regarding Jefferson; “Whatever he was thinking when he wrote ‘all men are created equal,’ he also believed blacks were inferior to whites. Inferior, he wrote, ‘to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.’” This idea is at the heart of the ideology of white supremacy. However, with the election of a Black President Of The United States (POTUS), this ideology is presented with a contradiction. The high profile of select successful Blacks like athletes and entertainers combined with the so-called “urban” (code for Black) lifestyle being adopted by youth of all ages, increasingly makes promulgating white supremacy untenable.

Second is the positive attitude of the generations of whites that apply a healthy serving of perspective regarding African American history. Kim LaCapria comments “Many took to Twitter to complain about Rock’s “racism” in pointing out that something that happened actually happened. As a white person myself, I would much rather that than getting shot in the chest at point-blank range when I am just trying to buy a damn iced tea, but I realize that opinion is just me, and far be it from me to speak for all white people, or suggest that the reaction to Rock’s tweet still illustrates we have a long way to go.” Zach Braff took to the Twitter waves to respond to Jeff Schreiber’s profane comments against Rock, noting that Schreiber, who is the managing editor of the America’s Right blog, actually had his facts wrong.

Third is attitude of whites who seek to ‘lay the slavery issue to rest’. In Jennifer Rubin’s column Right Turn for the Washington Post author Michael Moynihan writes;  “So a question for Rock: Should the shortcomings of America, the blemishes on our past — which are numerous, but acknowledged, investigated and debated — always outweigh its great achievements?” I would propose the answer is a conditional yes. As long as even bringing up racism is met with attack, it has not been ‘investigated and debated’. As long as reparations for the generations of servitude go unpaid, the answer is yes. America is guilty of the criminal acts of slavery, atrocities and human rights violations, yet the condescendingly called ‘blemishes’. That attitude alone is reason to answer yes. Convicts are forced to work in the prison industrial complex to pay their debt to society, yet white America calls even minor efforts (such as affirmative action) to right these wrongs as reverse racism.

The point these people fail to acknowledge is that the majority of African Americans are still treated like second class citizens. We are still the last hired and the first fired. We are still the targets of racial hatred and bias in virtually every aspect of American society. While fewer and fewer of the younger generations of whites whole-heartedly adopt the world view of white supremacy, there are still whites who do hold these attitudes in position government and private industry. Just like any ex-con, as soon as they do something bad; their past is always brought up. Therefore, the fact that you can identify existing examples of racial bias means that the “blemishes on our past” should be revisited.

One thing I suspect this has done is to push issues of race towards the forefront of American Society’s agenda. We may one day look back through the long lens of history and say this was the spark, the immediate cause, which led to a revolution in the thinking, the governance and the structure of American society.

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