1619

Read all of this and then meditate with me upon the COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE ALSO SAD right-wing freakout over “how can we possibly remember our history if it’s different than what we remember?” 

The very first person to die for this country in the American Revolution was a black man who himself was not free. Crispus Attucks was a fugitive from slavery, yet he gave his life for a new nation in which his own people would not enjoy the liberties laid out in the Declaration for another century. In every war this nation has waged since that first one, black Americans have fought — today we are the most likely of all racial groups to serve in the United States military.

My father, one of those many black Americans who answered the call, knew what it would take me years to understand: that the year 1619 is as important to the American story as 1776. That black Americans, as much as those men cast in alabaster in the nation’s capital, are this nation’s true “founding fathers.” And that no people has a greater claim to that flag than us.

Like imagine being so sad as a human being that you can’t find inspiration in another human being if they don’t look exactly like you. Imagine holding onto a story about a bunch of white men who said fuck you to the entire British Empire and brought it down, and not being able to make room for the black men and women who not only did that too, but they then brought down their white oppressors.

Imagine thinking history is one static thing, instead of a thousand stories and new ones being told every day.

But as the sociologist Glenn Bracey wrote, “Out of the ashes of white denigration, we gave birth to ourselves.” For as much as white people tried to pretend, black people were not chattel. And so the process of seasoning, instead of erasing identity, served an opposite purpose: In the void, we forged a new culture all our own.

I just … how do you not find that just as stirring as any speech given by Thomas Paine? Imagine being able to draw inspiration only from those who look like you. Imagine having that unimaginable luxury, the privilege to be that selfish.

A.

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