You CAN celebrate July 4 after Juneteenth. It’s Not a Competition!

You CAN celebrate July 4 after Juneteenth. It’s Not a Competition!

You CAN celebrate July 4 after Juneteenth.  It’s Not a Competition!

D. Watkins’ article in Salon Magazine today both angered and saddened me on a day that should be full of joy. His assertion we should not celebrate July 4th after Juneteenth makes it sound like it is some kind of competition:

“I admit I was jaded when Juneteenth was made a federal holiday. But I’ll take it over July 4”

I too admit I was a bit jaded when Juneteenth was made a federal holiday.  My first thought, on the heels of all the violence over the last year surrounding race, was that our President is just pandering to the community he has dedicated his life hollowing out.  I mean, I know he loves to talk about his days squaring off against ‘Corn Pop’ but to me, his words in the 1993 video below, epitomize how he really sees the African American community.  So of course he thinks Juneteenth will make up for some of his damaging rhetoric over the years.  

But the less cynical voice in my head decided it didn’t matter if Joe Biden was pandering to his base or not.  It is a part of our human experience to want to celebrate the victories we get in life.  Sometimes it seems like they are so few and far between.  So if federalizing a day we here in Texas have been celebrating for years, allows other areas of the country to celebrate an important victory for the black community… then it’s a win.  Hard stop.  It’s not a competition.

Juneteenth Celebration program, 1980”  Seattle Municipal Archives licensed under CC BY 2.0

So for a well regarded black author, who managed to get his Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins University and MFA in creative writing from University of Baltimore, to talk about how he has some moral convictions that won’t let him celebrate Independence Day, I have to snort a little:   

“I’ve been to Independence Day cookouts my whole life. I always eat the food on July 4 — plates of grilled lamb, barbecue chicken, deviled eggs, all the salads, carbs on carbs on carbs. But I’m not eating for me; no, I have principles and discipline. I will, however, eat for the ancestors.”

Yes, he had a hard upbringing.  From what I can read, he and his dead brother lead a life straight from the script of The Wire.  I can’t even begin to imagine the hopelessness.  I really can’t.  And for that, I am sorry.  But I am hard pressed to understand how, in our current society so engulfed with systemic racism, he managed to get a college degree at all, much less an MFA.  That’s some elite $#!% right there.  

One of his arguments in the article is that he has to stand with his bro Colin Kaepernick!  I cannot make this up!

“Watching a football game or lighting a firecracker on the Fourth is disrespectful to Colin Kaepernick.”

I find the wording ironic.  Doesn’t Colin take a knee?  But seriously, Kaepernick is literally a 1%-er.  Just a few years ago I was told that was THE WORST THING EVER!  But apparently, if you feel like biting the hand that feeds you, then that’s cool.  That systemic racism really kept Colin down, so I gotta be on his side.

And it’s not that Mr. Watkins doesn’t have a right to feel how he feels.  But does he literally have to go crap on MY parade?  Why can’t he just be happy for me?  Cause MY Independence Day has NOTHING to do with racism or slavery or keeping the black man down!  Forgive the language in this tweet, but it really sums it up for me:

And for all that vitriol I just spewed, I keep coming back to the afternoon I had just a mere two days ago.  I drove up to my driveway the other day and waved at the man I thought was my neighbor, sitting on his front porch.  I pretty quickly realized it was a man much younger than my neighbor and shouted across the way “Hey, are you Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s son, visiting from California?” 

I walked across the street to introduce myself.  He wasn’t the son, but the son-in-law and they were down from Atlanta.  He was black, I am white.  I used to live in Atlanta for many years.  He invited his wife out and for the next four hours we had the most wonderful dialogue about politics and race relations.  

The couple had met in Detroit while she was working on a big project up there, but she was raised in California.  They’ve been in Atlanta for a couple of years now and she remarked to me, “I am really loving my experience there.  You know, it’s like they’ve been at this race thing for so long now, they just have it down.  They can all look back and go:

“Man, we were really awful to you and we’re sorry!”

“Yeah, y’all really were really awful.  But we know you’re sorry… come on, sit down and have a glass of tea.”

I don’t know why we have people out there today who feel like it’s some kind of competition.  Why does one holiday need to be better than another?  Why do we need to negate one for the other?  Victories in life are hard to come by.  Why can’t we celebrate Juneteenth AND the Fourth of July? 


One Nation Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.



Featured Image: “North Charleston’s 4th of July Festival” by North Charleston, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 , cropped and modified


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  • Sorry, but I have nothing but contempt for this person.

    If there had not been a July the Fourth – there would NOT have been a Juneteenth.

    The British had abolished legal slavery in their own territories – which was not a huge problem for them. But would they have expended the treasure and the lives that the Union did to abolish it in their “Southern Colonies”? Highly unlikely.

    The reason for the Emancipation Proclamation, particularly for its timing, is that the British government was under intense pressure (as was the French government to a lesser degree) to formally recognize the Confederate States of America as a separate nation. Which would have permitted their neutral ships to enter the Southern ports to continue the trade in cotton and high quality ship timbers, which were essential raw materials. The Union could not fight a land war and a sea war at the same time without disaster. The Proclamation gave the opponents of recognition in Britain and France a powerful piece of ammunition to resist the pressures being placed upon their governments.

    (Note that this was one of the reasons that the Union never recognized the Confederacy as a legal entity – so long as they hewed to the notion that they were simply a rebellion, the closing of certain ports was simply their right as a sovereign nation – not a blockade.)

  • Gregory Brou says:

    I went to a July 4 concert today in a small texas town that has a military and collage background. The concert was heavily slanted towards military robust fun music. The audience was typically 70 years old with a lot of empty seats.
    Thinking about the attraction, it occurred to me that the draft ended 50 years ago and with it the potential for every American male to be called. Two generations of Americans have not had a serious commitment that could not be avoided. This observation is not to lessen the commitment of those who volunteer. But rather to suggest the demographics have changed and for independence day to stay relevant, it needs to expand its admiration to the other groups that support our continued independence.
    for instance in addition to the military, the below groups could be recognized ….

    farmers and ranchers that produce out food
    truckers and railroad that move our goods
    medical personnel who repair our bodies
    law enforcement that keeps us safe
    American factory workers that produce our utilities and goods
    Clergy and mental health professional that repair our minds
    service people that man the stores

    I would structure the program to avoid inclusion of Non American suppliers, Federal and state Beaurocrates, stock brokers and insurance salesman.

    Note that none of this is racially connected. It is an attempt to recognize the folks that do the daily contribution to making out independence work

  • Rdm says:

    Because their interest is not in recognizing their issues it is in destroying existing history so they can replace it and pretend their version is all that exists.

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