Tough Stuff

"Why I'm changing how I celebrate the 4th of July"

On July 4, 1776, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, and for the last 244 years, many of us have celebrated the 4th of July believing that all Americans have the right to "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Well, in 2020 so far, we've witnessed a global pandemic that appears to disproportionately affect people of color, the murders of Black Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and nationwide protests against police brutality. To say our nation is flawed would be the understatement of the year.

In elementary school we were taught to admire Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, for his intelligence. Our history books conveniently glossed over the fact that Jefferson was a slave owner, or that later as our president, he paid 15 cents per acre for land stolen from Native Americans.

The truth is, the founding fathers' promise of "inalienable rights" was never meant to apply to a Mexican American teen like me, nor was it meant to apply to BIPOC, the LGBTQ+ community or anyone else who doesn't resemble the Sons of Liberty.

As we approach this year's celebration, Americans are left wondering, "How do we celebrate a holiday that is built on hypocrisy and unfulfilled promises?"

Too often, the 4th of July feels like a celebration of privilege instead of national pride. It's a day where Americans come together to romanticize the past and pretend as if the atrocities of our history no longer divide us. We're bombarded with these images of "Americana" that do not accurately reflect the experiences of all citizens. If the 4th of July is really meant to celebrate our nation's rich history and the rebellious nature of our people, then we can't keep retelling and glorifying these stories of slave owning colonists. We should be having honest conversations about our countries' relationship with racism—not just as some evil relic of the Confederacy, but as an ever-present system that a large population of Americans still profit from.

These are the reasons, I'e decided to change how I celebrate the 4th of July. Instead of a campy celebration with fireworks and barbeque, let's make the 4th of July a day of quiet reflection on how far we've come as a nation...and how far we still need to go. Independence Day should empower people to share their families' stories of struggle and sacrifice, both inside and outside the United States. Rather than painting over our countries' diverse population with red, white and blue, this year's celebration should be a day where we honor the cultures that make up the diverse mosaic that is America.

Want to make your 4th of July a day of action? Click HERE for *tons* of suggestions. 

by Elise G. Esquibel | 7/4/2020