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COMMUNITY OPINION: This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

Celebrating the Fourth of July was hypocritical for Frederick Douglass then as it is today!

This opinion was contributed by community member Luis Burguillio. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Frederick Douglass asked his audience on July 5, 1858, "Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?"

James Earl Jones Delivers Frederick Douglass’ Historic and Au Fait 4th of July speech – "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"

Perhaps one of the most influential Americans (born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland) on the question of slavery and inequality was and remains Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, better known as Frederick Douglass. He was born in 1818, as best can be determined, to Harriet Bailey. He was “separated” from his mother at an early age, as was customary in slave plantation society. Separations have everlasting effects, blunt, and destroy any natural affection of mother to child. More insidious, in many instances in a slave society, is the fact that his father was his white slave master.

“She now stood fair for his infernal purpose.” -Frederick Douglass

Lent-out to Master Hugh’s family, Douglass worked at the Baltimore harbor. Taught to read and write by his Master’s mistress, she was strongly warned by her husband not to “learn the slave”, stating: “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. … know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do. … forever unfit him to be a slave … at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. … make him discontented and unhappy.” -Frederick Douglass  

“In time, she now commenced to practice her husband’s precepts. Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper. She seemed to think that there lay the danger.” -Frederick Douglass

After working a number of years at the harbor, on September 3, 1838 Douglass escaped human bondage, fleeing north to New York City, stating: “I left my chains, … without the slightest interruption of any kind.” Making his way to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and eventually forced to leave his land of birth in an effort to evade the slave police (precursor to today’s American policing structure), and the clutches of the Fugitive Slave Laws.

Preaching anti-slavery and the horrors of slavery from personal experience, Douglass was able to have his Freedom purchased, from the land of “the free and home of the brave, by supporters in Great Britain.

An American authority on the question, Douglass wrote, lectured, and edited the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper. Hear his Fourth of July speech or read the text. 

How much different is low-wage work from slavery? (LA Times April 22, 2015)  

“Slaves would receive, as their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of corn meal. Their yearly clothing allowance consisted of two coarse linen shirts, one pair linen trousers, one jacket, one pair trousers for winter, made of negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes; the whole of which could not have cost more than seven dollars.” 

“Our food was coarse corn meal boiled… called mush.” -Frederick Douglass    

Frederick Douglass wrote on religion and slavery, “The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.”

“Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by religion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christians churches, and yet in union with slaveholders,” Frederick Douglass said.

So what does the Fourth of July mean to many migrant workers and residents of Hollister and San Benito County on this most of recognized hypocritical national day of celebration?

To many it means having to work (at below minimum wage) at local agricultural fields (all Latino migrant workers) without the benefit of a choice of overtime or a national holiday off to celebrate.

Or as an actual testimonial from a local schoolteacher, who learned from his students' tears and anguish, that members of his and neighbors' families are being separated - torn apart - and parents deported in the name of "good old Americanism" - independence, freedom, equality, fairness and liberty?

More insidious, and very Hollister, is having a so-called neighbor's green pick-up truck with a HUGE Confederate flag, in the rancho community, barrel down on your loved ones.  Are these the reasons why we celebrate the Fourth July right here right now in Hollister, San Benito County? These are sufficient reasons for members of our Hollister, San Benito County community to question and open our eyes to the reality of the hoax and lie that is the Fourth of July, while ignoring the everyday realities.

A most disingenuous celebration!



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Luis Burguillo (An Engaged and ...)

As a student of the media and journalism, I am interested in utilizing the medium in order to assure that the residents of the City of Hollister and San Benito County are alerted, informed and educated on the official actions of their elected officials who are sworn to preserve, protect and defend the US constitution and Bill of Rights. More importantly, their engagement in the political process will hold the leaders accountable for their actions/decisions and lead to an improved governance.


Mr. Burguillo, thank you for your impassioned letter pointing to the abuses heaped on people of color throughout our history. The words of Frederick Douglass are very powerful indeed.

Some of your words however can only be read as a tossing of bait to the the haters; i.e the linking of the historical Slave Police as precursor to "today's American policing structure". Yes, you provided a link to a scholarly article on an academic website, but were you certain that a casual reader would go there and read that whole article, as I did? After reading it I grasped the truth in your statement, but to a hypothetical person wishing to defend America at all costs and who might not take the time to read the article, those words would seem inflammatory and tantamount to saying "cops are like slave hunters".

We have divisions in our country that go so deep as to be akin to a fatal disease coiled in our body politic and waiting to gain the strength to kill us. Why exacerbate them? If your opinion were couched in more scholarly, inclusive terms and cast as an appeal to everyone to understand the division as seen by people of color they might have a more beneficial effect. Many of us agree with your analysis. Some of us might, through our reading of history, already understand the truth of out Nation's bloody past. For example, Mr. Richman's opinion published at the same time as yours, acknowledges the divisions and quietly calls for contemplation.

Let's stop yelling at each other. The clown in the pickup with the slavery flag is no different than a clown I saw in Monterey one Cinco de Mayo in a sedan with fancy wheels cruising the parking lot at the wharf displaying two huge Mexican flags while blasting Ranchero music. Its incitement.

Submitted by (Alex D) on

I think that last bit is a false equivalence, and symptomatic of liberal centrism that continually undermines any attempt by those on the left to call attention to, and seek redress for real historical injustices. It’s a tactic legitimized by centrists and taken up by the right to make the argument that anti-fascist protestors are “as bad” as Nazis, Proud Boys, etc. and demonstrates a real ignorance of the fact (whether it’s willful or not can be debated). A Mexican flag and “ranchero music” do not have the same historical connotations as the Confederate battle flag and Johnny Rebel—not by a long shot. 

Submitted by (Frank Ramsey) on

I disagree and would say they have very simliar historical connotations (although maybe not the same). Don't ever forget that the United States and Mexico fought a war against each other. 

Alex D. Hello! Thanks for joining in. I'm neither a 'liberal' nor a 'centrist', nor am I someone who wants to categorize anyone who expresses their opinions in a manner that respects another's personal story. The man I mention in my comment was not expressing anything positive, nor was the man that Mr. Burgillio mentions. Both of these individuals were addressing long held grievances with a certain "pride". This kind of "pride" is at the core of our divisions in the country today. There is no justification for incitement, regardless of the historical circumstances that bring this kind of provocation about. The misguided individuals who  join the military today to "fight for liberty" in the Middle East  are no more or less deluded than their Confederate counterparts fighting for The Southern Way of Life and those Mexicans who thought they were fighting for their freedom from oppression by the wealthy. It's all BS and lies whenever poor people become cannon fodder. If you, sir, are a Marxist (as I once was) you must eventually see in the history of the Russian Revolution the complete failure of purist ideologies of any stripe. Trotsky killed Lenin out of fear. What I am is a person who wants to talk, and to listen. I will listen to you if you will speak intelligently and without provocation.

Submitted by (Alex D) on

There is a difference—a crucial one—between nationalism generally and white nationalism in the US.  Lumping them together is lazy and dangerous. Even Frantz Fanon embraced nationalism as a useful phase of revolution. I stand by what I said about your quaint anecdote: drawing an equivalence between someone with a Mexican flag listening to “ranchero” music and someone flying a confederate flag is ignorant—they mean two completely different things. It is quintessentially liberal—establishing false equivalences, such as the fetish of equality in the eyes of the law that is the hallmark of bourgeois liberalism (read Marx On the Jewish Question)—and counterproductive. It is EXACTLY like when trump said anti-fascists in Charlottesville were as bad as the Nazis there. 

Also, Lenin died of a stroke. Stalin had Trotsky assassinated in Mexico. Brush up on your theory and your history. 


Political systems sit on the surface of a sphere. If properly done they attain the balance of individual liberty and necessary regulation which assures that liberty can be enjoyed to the maximum practical degree.  The system in the  U.S. is supposed to be biased toward liberty - "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

We suffer government only as required to help us attain those ends.  The fact that we have not, or do not, always live up to our aspirations, is disappointing, but it does not negate the validity of those goals.

If, from that perfect point, you go either too far left or too far right you move around the sphere and end up in the same place, totalitarianism (a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.).

There was no real difference between Hitler and Stalin or Batista and Castro, they all promoted complete subservience to the state and nothing can justify that.

"That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."  Any threat to free-will consent is a form of extortion and both the radical right and radical left use those threats to promote their own forms of  totalitarianism.

Some people are willing give up their own or other people's liberty in exchange for more order (order as they see, it including economic and social), but if you ride that tiger you're sure to end up "inside 'er".

Marty Richman

Let me further illustrate my quaint little Cinco de Mayo tale for you;

The man had speakers in his grille. The volume of the music was akin to that of a person shouting into a powered megaphone. The flags being flown from each side of the vehicle were at minimum 3ft. X 4ft. The area through which he was driving was crowded with people walking from their cars to Fisherman's wharf. I estimated his speed to be 10 mph. He was not 'listening to his music while displaying a flag' but was very obviously engaged in making a political statement.

I know you are well aware that our region was once Mexico. It was "stolen" or "acquired"--the choice of the word is up to the reader depending on the judgment/prejudice of each--at a time when Mexico was fighting a European power on it's East Coast while it's Northern territories were being inundated by Americans and others. They accepted a paltry sum and gave the North up to avoid fighting two wars and losing everything.

My personal opinion is that the region was stolen under duress, coercion and threat of invasion. You seem to judge my quaint little tale from the narrow viewpoint of revolutionary Marxism as taught by Fanon and, I presume, others. But in this case, what a Marxist analysis will allow is insufficient and in fact, wrong. You've taken me to task for things you read in my original response to Mr. Burguillo's opinion piece and have not addressed my point; that divisive politics are exactly the cause of the divisions we are facing in our nation today. The battle over which economic system will be the ultimate has nothing to do with my illustration of how both of these angry and prideful men are simply facing off over a history that neither understands

Submitted by (Alex D) on

You brought up Marx, Terry. I can’t help it if reality is class struggle. The details of your anecdote don’t change anything, except that I now see your pettiness. On the one hand you preach understanding and dialog, on the other you deride a man you never spoke to (unless that’s the next addendum to this tale)for loud music and a Mexican flag—neither of which have genocide or slavery as their connotation. You were annoyed by the loud music and the flags and the speed of the car, apparently, and constructed this little narrative to rationalize your disdain. That’s the shallowness of your “politics” in this case. 

The right in this country is adept at politics because they understand that politics is a conflict over resources, and that there are always mutually exclusive interests at play. They identify and castigate their enemies (look at how accurately Hannity described Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s politics after her primary victory, and compare it to how Democrats like Tammy Duckworth obfuscate and beat around the bush to talk about compromise and moderation) and the utter failure of liberal centrism in this case is quite clear in the age of trump. Instead of similarly identifying their enemies and their class interests, Democrats were too scared to be identified as “leftists” and moved to the right, and failed the working class voters who foolishly trusted them for thirty years.  The problem in this country isn’t too much division. It’s that the division falls along the lines of things like parking spaces, flags, and loud music, instead of the material interests of the working class. 

Marty, horseshoe theory is weak. Keep at it, though. 

Alex, your Marxist theories have the same features as the department stores in almost any Communist nation - a lot of stuff on display, but nothing in stock.  I fully expected you to ignore any value to liberty and freedom; thanks for not disappointing me.

Perhaps you can try to sell Marxism to the American populace in a decade or two; I may or may not be around to see what's going on Independence Day 2028, but I am very confident that Marxism won't be the selected answer.

I lived in Europe for 15 years as an adult.  I don't know the origin, but the term, "People vote with their feet" always applied; almost no one crossed over to the East Bloc to enjoy the worker's paradise.  Conversely, they left in droves at every opportunity and often at great personal risk.  So who are you going to believe Karl Marx or the human beings who have to live under the state-supreme systems that stifle their soul?

We have lots of problems, but they are miniscule compared to the abject failures that represent the dead end of Marxist theory.  Those socialist nations that survive do so by enabling capitalism as a critical component to pay the bills and raise the standard of living.

Looks as if we're going to have to disagree, who could see that coming? lol

Marty Richman

You still don't get it. Erudition is one thing, comprehension another. The human race is lucky to have folks like you to set us straight without requiring us to labor through the same book learning you've absorbed. Since you seemingly don't want to converse, but rather would lecture me, I really can't think of anything more to say. Thanks for joining in.

Submitted by (Frank Ramsey) on

The 4th of July celebrates the birth of the United States. I'm not sure how it's a "hoax". 

The difference between slavery and low wage migrant workers....

Migrant worker CHOOSE to come here. In fact they go as far to break laws to enter this country and work. Slaves had no choice and were bred as livestock. Slaves didn't get to leave the plantation after their shift and on the weekend. To compare modern day migrant workers to slavery is ridiculous and your education and level of sanity should be questioned for even insinuated. I get you might have different opinions then me and think the migrant situation is bad but come dare you equate it to slavery. 

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