By Vernon A. Williams
For most African Americans, the Fourth of July is little more than an excuse for a day off and a time to fire up the grill, head to the beach or park, enjoy outdoor concerts, watch official city fireworks and sympathize with poor freaked-out dogs in the neighborhood tortured by sonic booms on the block for a solid month.
As a general proposition, I condition myself not to get too excited, too soon, over any positive social developments. It’s not skepticism – far from it. It’s more the exercise necessary caution to get all the facts before going with a story, which speaks to my training as a journalist.
But I must admit, sometimes you just have to go with your gut. If there’s enough evidence, there are times when a leap of faith is not only justified, but the most natural course of action. Sometimes something just feels right and you can’t fight it.
Make no mistake. We’ve only just begun our journey to a better United States. We’ve done little more than open the first page of the first chapter of meaningful, lasting change for Black Americans.
Long-elusive justice for all is still a distant quest. But no reasonable person can contest the fact that recent developments place us closer to inclusive dialogue and collective strategizing to reach that end.
For that reason, I find myself feeling more patriotic approaching the nation’s celebration of Independence Day than I have felt at any point of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, like most Black people, the bedrock of our perception is imbedded in the principles – not the actualization – of the U.S. Constitution.
The slave owners who penned the classic document viewed our ancestors’ worth as being only three-fifths of their own. That ungodly, jaded concept weaponized the rhetoric of freedom from day one.
Because we have never seen ourselves as anything less than full representations of God’s children, shaped in His own image, we never bought into racist words designed to redefine human beings with an ancestry of Kings and Queens.
We knew that we were whole and complete from the beginning, without the need for legislation or any sanction by society or certainly not the acceptance of oppressors. Black Americans learned early that it is not what they call you that matters but rather to what do you choose to respond.
So as a result of that self-assurance of who we are, Black Americans unapologetically lay claim to these words capsuled principles of a nation built on their blood, sweat and tears.
The Declaration of Independence is a purchase Black folks are ready to take out of layaway. The most important part is worth saying out loud.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.
The bottom line is, we have invested way too much in this country to be denied any longer.
The recent resolve of Blacks and support beyond our ranks make that new day inevitable.
Blacks Americans have long been those guests invited to the party by polite society as a mere formality, but not really expected to feel comfortable enough in the environment to actually show up. Well turns tell the deejay to throw on a little gospel, blues, jazz, R & B and hip-hop then order the chef to put soul food on the menu.
It’s true that we have not yet arrived. But we are on our way and won’t be turned around or misdirected until we get there.
Happy (seriously about to become true and lasting) Independence Day!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].