By Kai Wright
I’m content to let most holidays be just that—a time when you come off your daily grind and act up with the friends and family. July 4th—or, Independence Day—is a bit more complicated for me. It’s a celebration of the United States’ mythical founding story, an ahistorical account that was written to obscure the young nation’s many, many crimes against humanity. It never fails to surprise me how little Americans know of their real history, and thus how often we repeat its sins.
Today, Americans of all races hear about slavery, but haven’t the faculties to truly grasp it, or how crucial that brutality was to creating the wealth upon which this nation was built. Few schools teach that, in fact, trans-Atlantic slavery began as British capitalists stole their own countrymen’s common lands and forced the displaced into pressed labor on their ships. Or that it grew through their Irish conquest, where they repeated the formula, shipping forced labor to the Caribbean. Or that white supremacy was concocted by European capitalists who feared a multinational, multiracial coalition of the many hues of people they had forced to labor for them in deadly conditions in the Americas. When African slavery proved the most profitable way to extract labor, they just dehumanized the Africans from which they stole. Anybody who objected to this labor system was branded an outlaw, an illegal, as it were.