The U.S. loves its holidays—from the patriotic red, white and blue Fourth to the fake ones (hint, hint: Columbus Day). Given this, it’s only fitting that black Americans acknowledge how “good ol' America” has treated us so far this year. Let’s take a moment to commemorate and raise a glass to celebrate our status as one of this country’s least-revered citizen groups.
Here are the six times the U.S. gave us little reason to want to go all out for the Fourth of July.
1. When There Were Two Not Guilty Verdicts in the Freddie Gray Case
Another Baltimore police officer, Caesar Goodson Jr., was found not guilty of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. Goodson is the second officer to be found not guilty, which left little hope that any of the remaining four officers would be found guilty. The lesson here is clear: In the U.S., even in high-profile cases with lots of public scrutiny, black lives don’t matter to the courts; the only color that matters is blue.
2. When a Black Lives Matter Protester Was Convicted of “Felony Lynching”
In August 2015, Jasmine Richards, also known as Jasmine Abdullah, was charged with lynching when she tried to “de-arrest” a woman police were trying to arrest. While her actions were found to be illegal, despite being perhaps justifiable, the charges against her were not. They were the worst kind of ironic injustice: a black person convicted of lynching—when nobody even died.
3. When a City’s Drinking Water Became a Game to Government Officials
Simon says it’s OK to drink the water. Simon says you have to boil it first. Simon says a little lead is not really bad. Simon says we shouldn’t make premature findings, even though the water looks, smells and tastes bad. Simon (also known as the elected city and state officials of Flint, Mich.) was wrong.
4. When the Water Is Good, but the Pool Poster Ain’t
The Red Cross’ 2016 summer-safety poster is all kinds of bad. The representations of the white swimmers vary: Two of their actions are labeled “cool,” while the other three are deemed “not cool.” Every single black swimmer, however, is cited for doing something “not cool.” The poster shows a black girl pushing another girl into the pool, and a young red-haired white girl frantically swimming away from a young black boy, whose presence seems to make her feel unsafe. The message is clear: White kids are safe and obedient, while black children are wild and dangerous—even at 8 years old.
5. When the Presidential Nominee for a Major Political Party Is …
D.T. I can’t even bring myself to spell his name. I know not how to process either him or his supporters. Perhaps he speaks to the hopelessness and fears of his supporters—the same hopelessness and fears that have gripped black America for so long: fears of poverty and joblessness, fears that one's children will receive the short end of the stick in health care and education. Perhaps he speaks to fears of becoming America’s forgotten ones.
Yes, perhaps he speaks to fears, but those fears are imagined, while ours are evidenced throughout history. (Heck, they’re evidenced just in this list.) I can only speculate for a little while, though; the thought of him becoming the next president of the United States makes me wanna do more than holler. It makes me wanna buy a one-way trip to Africa and plant new, yet familiar roots in its soil. Perhaps I will matter there.
6. When It’s Becoming More Difficult to Vote in 2016 Than It Was in 1965
Several key components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting, have been removed during the last few years. In some states, it’s increasingly difficult for people of color to vote. We must never forget that some segments of the American population want only a certain type of voter to vote this election cycle. Stay woke. Stay voting.
This Fourth of July, I’m gonna sit by my aunt’s pool, drink a cold drink and try to think about what great things America has to offer. Sure, I have dreams of going back to the Motherland and starting afresh there—or perhaps whisking off to Paris in the steps of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, but let’s keep it real—outside of a two-week summer soiree in Ghana, I ain’t going nowhere. For better or for worse, I’ll stay here, but I’m gonna do so with fists raised high and eyes wide open.
Cheers, ’merica! Happy Birthday!