What does Independence Day mean to a minority?
Maybe it’s weird that I have my greatest epiphanies while scrolling through my Instagram feed or watching snapchat stories, but yesterday was no different. As I was admiring everybody’s high quality fourth of July pics with American flags, sparklers & fireworks, and the classic red, white, & blue dress code, I was really in awe of how our whole country comes together to celebrate a holiday; a day that is significant in our nations history. Yet, like always, it was one post that caught me off guard and made me question if our Independence Day invokes the same feeling in every citizen of this nation.
The post’s caption read as follows:
On this fourth of July, ask yourself, “What does Independence Day mean to a slave?” Remember that #BlackLivesMatter because if you love your country, you would stand up for those being oppressed within its borders. – @xrxnrxthxrfxrd
Although many Americans celebrated the Fourth of July with a revelry of fireworks and parades, for some minorities, including myself, this holiday brings only mixed feelings. I couldn’t help but ask myself yesterday: How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?
For many Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants & refugees, the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, recent police brutality against minorities, and the detaining of immigrants and summoning for the deportation of refugees, has some American citizens questioning equality and the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.
For me personally, I can’t help but feel perplexed about commemorating the birth of a nation whose judicial system fell short in convicting a police officer who shot an innocent black man. I am not sure if I want to celebrate a country in which the leader of the free world does not celebrate my identity as Muslim-American in the United States. Is it bad that I feel uneasy honoring a nation under a President who is ill equipped to ensure the liberty, justice and freedom for all its citizens and not just those he approves of?
When I asked a close Muslim friend of mine who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan if she would be celebrating Fourth of July, she said:
I am conflicted. I am grateful for the opportunities the United States has given me, but I don’t know how to approach this holiday this year. How do you celebrate a holiday of unity nationhood, love and respect at a time when those very things seem, in many ways, are under existential threat?
This is a looming dilemma for many including myself. Celebrating the Fourth of July when our country is so evidently divided is very difficult, especially for those of us who constantly have to prove our American identity in fear of being labeled as “un-American.” Right now what we have, on both sides, is a large amount of Americans who believe that another substantial amount of Americans are not really Americans, and that to me is very serious. It is the clear division over who has the standing to be an American.
As a daughter of two immigrants and as a Muslim-American who was born on this land, this year has been difficult, as I feel that my own freedom has been taken away by the current political climate. My family came to this country to enjoy freedom from tyranny, but now I feel as if tyranny is following us, right here under the eyes of the Statue of Liberty. We seem to be losing the fundamental idea of what it means to be an American. We are American no matter the color of our skin, the God we pray to, or the piece of clothing we wear.
So, in a time of painful political division, intolerant social posts, and internal moral dilemmas, I want all of you to ask yourselves: What kind of nation would you like to celebrate?
Thanks for reading.
See you soon,