Remembering the Fourth in red, white and black
Like most there are so many things I love about the fourth of July — seeing the vibrant red, white and blue colors; grilling meat, meat, and more meat; having cookouts with family and friends; and watching amazing fireworks.
This year my children and I had the opportunity to be on the Tea Party float in the Peachtree City parade. It was a magnificent float replicating the ship from the Boston Tea Party.
This symbol represented the founding spirit of our country rebelling against England’s tyrannical taxation on a people who eventually fought, sacrificed, and died in order to be sovereign nation.
However, the night before the parade I envisioned my family on that ship and another heritage struck me plainly — the American slave trade.
While I agree with every principle of the Tea Party there was an inextricable weight that fell on my heart — images of my ancestors being brutalized on similar ships as they were forced to come to America.
In that moment, I was reminded of the cultural difference between myself and my fellow conservatives who believe in the founding principles of our nation.
They often speak of going back to the times of the founding of our country, but they don’t seem to realize the hurt and pain that any allusion to “going back to our nation’s founding” brings to most African Americans.
For most of us, the pride that is America does not come from our founding as a nation. Rather, it comes from the opportunity it represents for our children and the hope for a better future.
This is why so many of us can celebrate America on July 4th, while, on the other hand, having a resentment of her.
To some degree I also had this point of view until I read a biography of George Washington over 10 years ago. I read of a man of decent means, sacrificing all that he had — including his life — for the sake of a vision of a free and sovereign nation.
Through this vision he became general of an army and led its men into many battles where they were outnumbered, out-skilled, out-resourced, half-starved, and nearly froze to death.
I read how he seemed to have a “divine protection” over him as bullet holes were found in his jacket yet did not strike his body.
He was also a statesman and led the Continental Congress to establish our nation’s government. He was unanimously voted by that congress to become our nation’s first president.
Yet, during his second term, he declined to serve a third term, and recommended presidential term limits because it was all too tempting to establish a dictatorship for a nation struggling to establish itself as a democratic republic.
Reading George Washington’s biography changed my life forever. I recognized that while America’s history has its sins, it was also founded by men who sacrificed everything so that her people would have the opportunity to live freely and fulfill their destinies.
This simple biography connected me to America in a way I didn’t think was possible. I could now celebrate our nation’s founding and feel a sense of pride.
I could now teach my children about America’s history and say with conviction that despite horrible sins like slavery we can look at citizens like our very first president and know that America has, is, and prayerfully always will be a truly noble and honorable nation.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]