With Independence Day approaching, most of us celebrate how great it is to be Americans. The Advocate decided, in the spirit of the holiday, to ask some “notable Baton Rougeans” what is means to them to be American. And they got a variety of answers, which to us were pretty telling.
Of course they quoted Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, and her response, though frustrating, was not surprising.
“The celebration of the independence of this country makes us understand that we have to bridge the differences between us and provide opportunity for everyone. We must meet the promise of those who created this great nation — that there will be liberty and justice for all. That’s the work of every American, no matter where they live, no matter who they are. Happy Fourth of July.”
This is a little historically inaccurate, or at least incomplete. Our Founding Fathers, and all of those Americans involved in the Revolution, put their lives on the line to free themselves and future generations from Britain’s control – not so that they could continue living under a government that was constantly telling them how to live their lives, and without proper representation. And while we’re talking about the Founding Fathers, meeting the “promise of those who created this great nation” does not mean picking and choosing which parts of that promise we want to meet and what’s convenient to throw out. The founding documents essentially restrict the government’s power, leaving more room for personal freedoms. Maybe we’re wrong, but it seems that Sharon Weston Broome hasn’t promoted much of that.
A more disappointing response to the question of what it means to be American came from Marcel P. Black, a 33-year-old rapper/activist.
“Independence Day is supposed to commemorate freedom from our colonizers — something I feel that black people haven’t truly experienced all the way yet. What happened to Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shouldn’t happen to people who are viewed as free American citizens. Until these things are remedied, I’ll only wonder what it is to be fully American on July 4.”
He may have mentioned freedom from our colonizers, but he wasted no time straying from what we celebrate on Independence Day to making an argument about racism.
However, there were at least a few responses we can get behind. One in particular came from Clay Young, the 41-year-old owner of Clay Young Enterprises.
“To me, being an American means you have an opportunity to create your own outcome, but as an American, opportunity is what is guaranteed. Outcome should not be.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. And Reverend Lee Wesley, pastor at Community Bible Baptist Church, summed things up nicely, too.
“First of all, the freedom to worship as we choose. The freedom to pursue our goals in life without interference from our government. The right to assemble. Even though we have some problems in our country, it is still the greatest country on the face of the Earth.”