Former NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick marked July Fourth by sharing a video of actor James Earl Jones reciting Frederick Douglass’s historic “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, with Kaepernick calling the holiday a “celebration of white supremacy.”
The video shows images of the Declaration of Independence, slaves, Ku Klux Klan members, lynchings and police brutality as Jones says, “Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?”
Kaepernick captioned the video with a strong condemnation of racism and a call for “liberation for all” in the future.
“Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of ‘independence’, while you enslaved our ancestors,” he wrote. “We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all.”
Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all. ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/YCD2SYlgv4— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 4, 2020
The impassioned statement comes as many citizens reflect on Independence Day in the context of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. Lawmakers have faced growing pressure in recent weeks to pass comprehensive police reform as well as other policies to protect Black Americans in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and others who have been killed in police custody.
Kaepernick has been an outspoken activist against racial inequality for years, drawing national attention and the ire of President Trump when in 2016 he began kneeling during the national anthem in a protest against police brutality.
His charity, the Know Your Rights Camp, recently launched a fund to help cover the cost of lawyers for protesters arrested during Black Lives Matter marches and demonstrations.
Other prominent figures have used their Fourth of July messages to address racism, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who said the U.S. “never lived up to” the promise that all men are created equal.
“We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country,” Biden said. “We have a chance to live up to the words that founded this nation.”