The other day, someone asked me “Should I celebrate the Fourth of July?”
My immediate response was “I believe you should do what makes you feel comfortable,” with a promise to give further explanation later. So in my further consideration of this question about whether one (particularly one who is POC in America) should celebrate America’s independence from British reign, I was reminded of a portion of “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” by Fredrick Douglass.
Many people have varying opinions on the meaning of Fourth of July for POCs in America. However, on this day, I want to acknowledge and validate the experience of one to feel pensive or even skeptical about the celebration of Fourth of July. While the Fourth of July is a day of pride and festivity for many, it may also be a day of somber contemplation, resentment, or even rage. For many, this day represents strides made for the advancement of all men for freedom and liberty. For others, this day represents moments in which freedom was not a liberty granted to millions.
For many POCs in America, the suspicion, rejection, and criticism of the Fourth of July is healing. It’s therapeutic, and a healthy part of a life-long process called racial identity development. In this process, it is common for POCs to gradually become disillusioned with what it means to be American, to begin to notice distinctions between themselves and “traditional” American values and standards, to become immersed into their own unique cultural, ancestral, or indigenous heritages, and then to determine for themselves at what level they prefer to integrate or blend their cultural identities with their American nationality.
Racial identity development is important and necessary for adequate and authentic personal growth and mental health. Therefore, the choice to not celebrate America’s independence should not be shamed, judged as unpatriotic, or viewed as negative. This should be validated as a real choice and a valid experience for millions of American citizens.
There is room for varying perspectives and experiences of the Fourth of July in America. This is one that deserves a voice too.
Dr. Amber Thornton
Clinical psychologist with a passion for family, community, culture, and diversity.