On the Fourth of July, many Americans celebrate the US Declaration of Independence. Yet there is no denying that it is fraught with tensions. By ignoring how white supremacy was the cultural ideology of the Colonies, most interpretations of the document twist the meaning of Thomas Jefferson’s famous words. It is impossible to separate the history of racism and white supremacy from the Declaration of Independence. Misunderstanding the Declaration of Independence makes these facts easy to ignore.
“We hold these words to be self-evident,” wrote Jefferson, “that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights.” Jefferson meant every word. But no phrase has been more misunderstood, as the very humanity of Indians or Africans was never “self-evident” for our Founders. Jefferson’s words are tied to a long history of racial mythology designed to place the mask of egalitarianism on the face of white supremacy.
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