Despite what you may have heard, abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass died in 1895. Still, the racial America Douglass exhorted to live up to its ideals languishes, particularly though the lens of a Rochester, NY speech he gave 167 years ago.
“Do you mean, citizens, to mock me?” he asked in a speech titled, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.” “What have I, or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
All these years later, the answer remains, “no.” This holiday, let’s depart from what writer Ta-Nehisi Coates called “fair weather patriotism” — celebrating achievement while ignoring problems — and create an America where African-Americans aren’t awkwardly included, but truly belong. An America of social and economic parity.
Hardly anyone expected punishment, for example, for the Tonganoxie officers who last year handcuffed Karle Robinson and held him at gunpoint for moving into his own home. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training’s (KS·CPOST) didn’t disappoint.
CPOST did not punish the officers, and issued Robinson, a black Marine veteran, a three-sentence letter announcing the closing of the case. There was no explanation.
Consider how Phoenix police terrorized those young parents and their two toddlers over a suspected shoplifting incident. The parents’ 4-year-old is still having nightmares and wetting the bed. Consider the spate of white people calling the police on black people doing little more than breathing.