Glenn Loury: July Fourth 2021 – the case for unabashed Black patriotism on this Independence Day weekend

There is a fashionable standoffishness characteristic of much elite thinking about Blacks’ relationship to America—as exemplified, for instance, by the New York Times’s 1619 Project. Does this posture serve the interests, rightly understood, of Black Americans? I think that it does not.

Indeed, a case can be made that the correct narrative to adopt today is one of unabashed Black patriotism—a forthright embrace of American nationalism by Black people. Black Americans’ birthright citizenship in what is arguably history’s greatest republic is an inheritance of immense value. My answer for Black Americans to Frederick Douglass’s famous question—”Whose Fourth of July?”—is, “Ours!”

Is this a venal, immoral, and rapacious bandit-society of plundering white supremacists, founded in genocide and slavery and propelled by capitalist greed, or a good country that affords boundless opportunity to all fortunate enough to enjoy the privileges and bear the responsibilities of citizenship? Of course, there is some warrant in the historical record for both sentiments, but the weight of the evidence overwhelmingly favors the latter. 

The founding of the United States of America was a world-historic event by means of which Enlightenment ideals about the rights of individual persons and the legitimacy of state power were instantiated for the first time in real institutions.

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African slavery flourished at the time of the Founding, true enough. And yet, within a century of the Founding, slavery was gone and people who had been chattel became citizens of the United States of America. Not equal citizens, not at first. That took another century. But African-descended Americans became, in the fullness of time, equal citizens of this republic.

Our democracy, flawed as it most surely is, nevertheless became a beacon to billions of people throughout what came to be known as the “free world.” 

Some 40 million strong, Black Americans are the richest and most powerful population of African descent on the planet. 

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