by Mia McKenzie
On Memorial Day, I wrote a post about The Fallen: the people in my communities and in society and in history who have been casualties of the war on black and brown people that this country has been fighting since 1492. Now it’s Independence Day.
I grew up in Philadelphia, the so-called “cradle of liberty.” As a kid, I spent many a field trip at the Betsy Ross House and at Independence Hall, learning the stories of my “forefathers,” who, rebelling against the tyranny of the British monarchy, “founded” a “new” nation whose principles were “liberty” and “equality” and “democracy,” and all that awesome-sounding stuff. Yes, there I was, little black me, being told all this by teachers who never blinked an eye over the hypocrisy of it all. (There were no field trips about “slavery,” by the way). Luckily, I got conscious somewhere along the way and figured out what the founding of this nation, and its subsequent growth, owed to brown and black people in whose blood and on whose backs it was erected.
I am always amazed at people who go around waving US flags and exalting the greatness of this nation, particularly on days like this. Not even because of the brutal racist history of this nation, which does not necessarily preclude its possible present greatness. But because of the present of this nation. Which does.
In the world, the U.S. ranks:
- 10th in literacy
- 25th in math
- 17th in science
- 38th in life expectancy
- 1st in incarceration
- 1st in military expenditures
- 1st in number of billionaires
Is this what people are waving flags about??
I wonder if some of the energy Americans spend waving flags and getting pissed when some of us question the historic and current practices of this nation was actually spent learning about and trying to understand the consequences of the historic and current practices of this nation, and building some kind of analysis around it. What greatness might develop from such an endeavor as that? What if today—while we scarf down burgers and potato salad—we think about what we are celebrating and why.
Because I love a good BBQ. I really do. But you know what I also love? Not walking around with my head up my ass.
Mia McKenzie is a writer and a smart, scrappy Philadelphian with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards and grants, such as the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. She just finished a novel and has a short story forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. Her work has been published at Jezebel.com, and recommended by The Root, Colorlines, Feministing, Angry Asian Man, and Crunk Feminist Collective. She is a nerd, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a revolutionary blog.