For BIPOC, the 4th of July is a grim reminder of the ways in which America has lied to us again and again.
The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, may be a time of celebration, fireworks, and picnics for white Americans, but for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), this day often evokes more complicated feelings.
There is a certain irony to the fact of a global empire – built from the ground up on slave labor and Indigenous genocide – celebrating “freedom” from its former colonial status, without acknowledging the profound unfreedoms it has inflicted on the rest of the world’s people in order to achieve it.
Most BIPOC know that the Declaration of Independence, supposedly signed on July 4th, 1776 (though historians agree that this was not the actual day of the signing), is a sham. The famous words of the Declaration, which most of us are taught in school – “all men are created equal” – echoes back in the contemporary conservative slogan “all lives matter.”
We know what the founders of this country meant when they signed the Declaration. By “all” they meant white. And by “men” they meant cis men–and only cis men. For BIPOC, the Fourth of July is thus a grim reminder of the ways in which America has lied to us again and again, holding out the promise of universal freedom with one hand, while underlying the fine print with the other.
If the Fourth of July has you longing to connect with friends, family, and community on this state-sanctioned day of rest, but makes you wary of participating in celebrations of white supremacy at the expense of the rest of us, here are some tips for self-care that may be helpful to keep in mind.
Related: 4 WAYS TO DECOLONIZE ON COLUMBUS DAY
Self-care can look a lot of different ways for different people. There is no right or wrong when it comes to self-care. The only guidelines for self-care activities are that they should leave you feeling rested, replenished, seen and validated for all of who you are.
So here are a few tips for BIPOC folks, especially queer, trans, and/or disabled BIPOC folks, to get through the day.
Gather community. Specifically, gather YOUR community, the community that sees you and uplifts you for who you are. If this means spending time away from white folks, family members who trigger you, or anyone who forces you to engage in exhausting conversations that drain you of energy, then you can and should do avoid them. This doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself away in your room–unless that feels helpful and nourishing for you. Cooking, journaling, or taking a walk together with fellow BIPOC can be a simple and radical act of self-care.
Invest in Earplugs. If militaristic displays of nationalism just aren’t for you; if you have PTSD because you are a military veteran, have spent time in a war-torn country, or carry trauma related to experiences of gunfire and other loud noises, then invest in a good set of earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, or ask if you can borrow some from a friend. Fireworks can be triggering for folks for lots of different reasons, and since BIPOC are more likely to carry histories of trauma in their bodies, it’s especially important to take safety measures to make sure that we aren’t triggered by fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Say No. Decline invitations to BBQs, picnics, parties, or gatherings that will leave you feeling isolated and triggered. Decline invitations from folks who don’t have your best interests at heart, or who don’t acknowledge why this day might not be one of celebration for you. Decline invitations to spaces or places where you know you will be forced to “put on a good face” for a larger group of people, or where you will be forced to act in a way that prioritizes the needs and desires of others over yourself. If the Fourth of July is a day of mourning or anger for you, let it be a day of mourning or anger.
Decolonize the Fourth. If you have the energy and capacity to do so, start an alternative Fourth of July tradition that de-colonizes the holiday and teaches folks the real history behind this date. Political education can be a critical act of resistance, particularly in these times. Compile readings such as Frederick Douglass’s “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July,” or Roxanne Dunbar-Oritz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States to educate yourself and others about the significance of this date to people other than white Americans.
Pets, Aromatherapy, Plants. If all else fails, cuddle with a furry animal (if you aren’t allergic); try essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, or chamomile in the bathtub or on your pillow case; plant some herbs, start a succulent garden, and reconnect with the land.