July 4, 2020: How Will We Celebrate?

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July 4 is here, and we have an opportunity to adopt a more truthful narrative about the celebration of our nation’s birth and the racism upon which it was formed. This year while we look back on the almost 250 years since Americans freed themselves from England’s oppression, we must acknowledge that our nation has maintained a fictional narrative of freedom for all by intentionally whitewashing its longstanding history of enslaving, repressing, and exploiting black Americans.

In January 2020, we taught a seminar about lynching and restorative justice at St. John’s School of Law and saw first-hand the power of truthful narratives about race and racism. Our students learned how false narratives obscured racism’s persistence and precluded meaningful enactment, interpretation, and implementation of the law. The modern-day relevance of this kind of seminar is painfully obvious in light of the string of incidents involving black individuals who died at the hands of police officers in the first few months of the year.