For many, absolutely. For others, not so much. It’s common for marginalized U.S. citizens to question reveling in Fourth of July festivities, according to Fordham University critical race theory law professor Tanya K. Hernández.

After someone spat on him at an airport last March, tech executive Jeff Le is more petite than inclined to go out and celebrate.

“I’m honestly pretty nervous about the Fourth,” Le says. “It was my favorite holiday, but with Asian hate, I’ve been feeling less interested in engaging at night in public places.”

Independence Day doesn’t ring true for all Americans who have felt unwelcome in the U.S. or jaded by its politics, though experts say there is room for personal growth in such discomfort.

“Ambivalence can be a very productive space for pursuing much-needed change,” Hernández says.

Great list: What kids should be reading for AAPI Heritage Month and why representation matters. A lack of patriotism surrounding July 4 isn’t new. This land hasn’t always been o’er the free, after all.

Hernández invoked abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” while ruminating on the subject. “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me,” Douglass said.

“It is disconcerting how many of Douglass’s concerns with social and civic exclusion still exist long after the abolition of slavery,” Hernández says. I’m honestly pretty nervous about the Fourth. … It was my favorite holiday, but with Asian hate, I’ve been feeling less interested in engaging at night in public places.

Worth the watch:

  • Compromising is your friend. Debra Kissen, CEO of cognitive behavioral therapy treatment centers Light on Anxiety, suggests making room for social justice while also taking time for happiness. “Whatever social justice actions you want to take, engage in those behaviors and create the change you want and still find ways to weave in joy within the culture that you do live in.”
  • Make a decision and own it. “It’s fine to just say I’m going to skip Fourth of July festivities, whatever that means to me, and just treat it like another day; I’m just not feeling patriotic this year,” Kissen says. “Then own that.”
  • Recognize there is no perfect solution. “In life, there isn’t going to be a perfect solution. But we pick one that feels good enough for the moment that we’re in, and then just proceeding forward and owning that decision,” Kissen says.
  • Take time to reflect. “The best way to celebrate the holiday is the same way Frederick Douglass did – by using it as a day for honest reflection on how best to have ‘the rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed (by our forebearers)’ extended to us all,” Hernández says.
  • Write down your feelings and plans for the day. “I might help a second-generation American client in creating a gratitude list that focuses on the special meaning that the U.S. has to them and their family – while also helping the client develop a plan for antiracist, anti-oppressive, and/or anti-colonial action on July 4 and beyond,” Nadeau says. “With another client, who enjoys the barbecues and fireworks but struggles with patriotism, we might work together to plan a celebration of summer, or of rest, or of friendship – something with meaning for them.”
  • Find perspective. Living in America grants people certain freedoms not found elsewhere, and perhaps it is something to celebrate after all. “While folks reckon with the country’s past and present – and strive to all do better –there is much to be grateful for about the privileges that we have just been here,” Nadeau says.


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