The Irony of being Black and Somewhat Unfree in a Land Celebrating its Independence

The great comedian Chris Rock once stated the following, “If you’re black, you got to look at America a little bit different. You got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but molested you.” Rock succinctly explains the foremost dilemma of being Black in America; a nation that simultaneously presents African-Americans with glimpses of good and never-ending reminders of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

Despite this peculiar position of being “free” in a nation that enslaved our ancestors, African-Americans have miraculously proven to be the vessels that memorable moments of what this nation was created to stand for are frequently communicated.

I am certain that you have seen Star Swain, a 34-year-old assistant principal from Tallahassee, Florida perform a soulful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of the Lincoln Memorial that reminds of Marian Anderson’s rendition in 1939 of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the same location. The fact that a descendant of enslaved, exploited, and beaten Africans would be the very vessel that such a beautiful rendition of one of this nation’s most symbolic songs says so much about the perseverance of African-American hopes and dreams.

Despite historically being used as the mules from which this nation’s initial wealth was created via ‘cash crops’ such as tobacco, sugar, and ‘King Cotton’, the vast majority of enslaved Africans found a way to remain optimistic regarding what the future held for them. Even in moments of physical rebellion such as Nat Turner’s Southampton, Virginia, African-Americans display their desire for one of the foundational pillars of America, Freedom.

I hope that on this vaunted day of “Independence” for this nation called America that African-Americans take a few moments to remember our, not necessarily America’s, ‘Founding Fathers’. Names such as Olaudah Equiano, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel and Nannie Prosser, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, E.D. Nixon, Asa Philip Randolph, James Baldwin, and the list goes on and on, must be integrated into a celebration of our tenuous independence. We must continue to find ways to strive for freedom, without forgetting our dark past.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

4 thoughts on “The Irony of being Black and Somewhat Unfree in a Land Celebrating its Independence”

  1. We have to take ownership of our communities and control what we can. It is to us to carry and pass the torch to generations to come. Our history in American should motivate to do more for us. We already know the system was designed to keep us struggling, but it’s up to us to change the paradigm. Too many African Americans are settling for less than , instead of going what generations before us did; accept the challenge to challenge the system and WIN! Freedom is free of the need to be free (Last Poets).

  2. So basically in spite of verifiably being utilized as the donkeys from which this present country’s underlying riches was made by means of ‘money products’, for example, tobacco, sugar, and ‘Lord Cotton’, by far most of subjugated Africans figured out how to stay idealistic in regards to what the future held for them. Indeed, even in snapshots of physical disobedience, for example, Nat Turner’s Southampton, Virginia, African-Americans show their craving for one of the foundational mainstays of America, Freedom.

  3. I agree whole heartily with not forgetting our past but I don’t think we should back track because it would be wasted energy. We should be focusing more on advancing and fighting the fight for equality along with other oppressed groups. If we fight the fight as a collective we could make a bigger impact and get more done.

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