[guest post by Dana]
On July 4th, the same wealthy young man who successfully compelled Nike to pull their 4th of July kicks bearing an image of the flag sewn by an industrious, young widow named Betsy Ross, tweeted a quote by Frederick Douglass. Along with the quote, he posted historical photos and video clips documenting the horrific treatment blacks have experienced at the hands white America:
“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? This Fourth of July is yours, not mine…There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”
– Frederick Douglass pic.twitter.com/IWLujGCJHn
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 4, 2019
In response to Kapernick’s posting, Sen. Ted Cruz added some necessary context to the Douglass quote and encouraged everyone to read the entire Douglass speech for themselves:
You quote a mighty and historic speech by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but, without context, many modern readers will misunderstand. Two critical points: (1) This speech was given in 1852, before the Civil War, when the abomination of slavery still existed. Thanks to Douglass and so many other heroes, we ended that grotesque evil and have made enormous strides to protecting the civil rights of everybody.
(2) Douglass was not anti-American; he was, rightly and passionately, anti-slavery. Indeed, he concluded the speech as follows: “Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.
“There are forces in operation, which must inevitably, work the downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain.
“I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from ‘the Declaration of Independence,’ the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”
Let me encourage everyone, READ THE ENTIRE SPEECH; it is powerful, inspirational, and historically important in bending the arc of history towards justice: rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/2945
No one can deny that context is everything, and that read in its entirety, Cruz is right about the speech: It is powerful, inspirational, and historically important. It deserves to be read by all Americans.
With that, Mara Gay, who sits on the New York Times editorial board, decided that instead of joining Cruz and urging her own 45,000 followers to read Douglass’s historic speech for themselves, the better option was to attack Cruz:
It’s disappointing that such a successful young woman missed a golden opportunity to join Cruz in encouraging all Americans to read Douglass’s speech. Telling an individual who is pushing the public to learn more about history not to talk about history because of her personal support and admiration of Kapernick reminds me of the narrow-minded bias that too frequently rears its ugly head in the New York Times. I hope Kapernick, and everyone who hasn’t read the speech, takes Cruz’s advice. We will all be the better for it. In my book, I don’t care who’s calling for it, if someone is pushing Americans to learn more of their country’s history, then let’s just do it.
P.S. I wrote this post yesterday morning but didn’t publish it. I’m glad, too, because checking Gay’s Twitter feed this morning, I can add to the post that, not only does she believe in Kapernick and his take on America, she has admitted that, along with Cruz, everyone should read the Douglass speech.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)