“Happy White Peoples Independence Day”

Jack Marshall is peeved at Chris Rock over this tweet:

Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks

Jack thinks that’s “Ignorant, racist, divisive, unfair, disrespectful, bitter, dumb, and not funny.” I’ll give him bitter and not terribly funny, but Jack’s seriously overreacting to the rest of it.

Ignorant…because it misrepresents the roots of the Declaration, its motives, its power and its results.

Yes, yes, the ideas in the Declaration of Independence did inform the abolition movement and did eventually lead to the end of slavery. It’s a common pattern of history: The elites of a society force their rulers to recognize their right to govern themselves, and eventually those rights trickle down to everyone else. But on July 4, 1776 the slaves were still slaves, and most of them were dead before emancipation came.

Racist…because it judges the Founders by the color of their skin rather than by the humanistic and race-neutral government they were fighting to achieve.

Some of the founding fathers were fighting for a humanistic and race-neutral government. But many of them were clearly opposed to such a thing. We know this because the government of the early United States was far from race-neutral.

Also, when white people are being assholes to black people, it’s not anti-white racism to point out that white people are being assholes to black people.

Divisive, because it attempts to alienate black Americans from a celebration that is equally the expression of gratitude and the obligation of all Americans regardless of color.

Somehow, I don’t think black Americans needed Chris Rock to make them feel alienated.

Unfair, because it mischaracterizes a brave and transformative act as less than it is, a momentous achievement for human kind that a petty pygmy like Chris Rock could not even aspire to.

I think it characterizes the signing of the Declaration as exactly what it was, a momentous achievement that nevertheless fell short of our ideals. That the abolitionist founding fathers were forced to compromise on slavery in return for unity does not necessarily reflect badly on them. They had to make the best of a bad situation. But that doesn’t change the fact that July 4, 1776 wasn’t exactly a banner day for blacks in North America.

Disrespectful, because the Founders, even the slave-holders among them, deserve respect and gratitude for having the courage to give birth to the country that allows an ass like Rock to make a living ridiculing people better than he is.

I love Thomas Jefferson’s writing about liberty, and for that he has my great respect. But if his slaves had risen up and killed him while trying to escape, I would not condemn them for it.

Dumb, because it is facile and made in defiance of the facts.

Well, it is a tweet, so facile is a given. But what part of “the slaves weren’t free” is in defiance of the facts? All in all, the American Revolution didn’t do a lot to improve the quality of life for slaves in the south.

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