Black progressive lawmakers on Sunday questioned the inclusivity of the freedoms celebrated on Independence Day as the White House prepared for an evening of traditional festivities.
As Biden’s White House readied fireworks and burgers for America’s annual celebration of nationhood, progressives expressed their views on what the Fourth of July means from the Black American perspective.
“When they say that the 4th of July is about American freedom, remember this: the freedom they’re referring to is for white people. This land is stolen land and Black people still aren’t free,” tweeted Missouri Rep. Cori Bush.
On July 5, 1852, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass challenged the hypocrisy of the Declaration of Independence in a keynote address commemorating its signing.
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” he asked. “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.”
California Rep. Maxine Waters, the House Financial Services Committee chair, echoed Douglass’ sentiment on Sunday, tweeting, “July 4th… & so, the Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. Equal to what? What men? Only white men? Isn’t it something that they wrote this in 1776 when African Americans were enslaved? They weren’t thinking about us then, but we’re thinking about us now!”
This year, America moved to designate Juneteenth as a federal holiday, but for decades, many Black people have been celebrating their day of freedom on June 19—which commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves.
In a searing op-ed for theGrio, Touré, an author and former MSNBC host, criticized the Fourth of July, arguing that it “wasn’t Independence Day for Black people.” He wrote that Juneteenth casts a “long shallow over Independence Day, making it look like a hypocrite and a damn fool.”
“Independence for who?” Touré asked. “It wasn’t independence for Black people, for our ancestors, so why would we celebrate the Fourth of July?”
He also cited the Pulitzer Prize-winning essay for the “1619 project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which noted that colonies sought to emancipate from Britian partly to protect the institution of slavery.
“America wanted to protect its cash cow and, even more, it was wealth derived from slavery that allowed the colonies to afford to pay for the War of Independence,” Touré wrote. “The founding of this country is intertwined with slavery. Why would we celebrate that?”
Newsweek reached out to Cori Bush and Maxine Waters’ office for further comment. This story will be updated with any response.