Why Activists Say to Wear Black on the Fourth of July

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Jul. 3 2023, Updated 10:05 a.m. ET

Abortion rights protest
Source: Getty Images

An abortion rights protest on June 29, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

No doubt, many Americans will wear red, white, and blue on Independence Day. But others plan on wearing black on the 4th of July to show their frustration with the state of the union — and their commitment to a freer, more equitable America.

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In 2020, activists encouraged their followers to wear black to support Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations. In 2022, some people donned black clothes on July 4 to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade. If people decide to wear black in 2023, it could be in connection to several controversial Supreme Court decisions.

Some wear black on July 4 to Black, Brown, and Indigenous people matter in America.

Black Lives Matter protester
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A Black Lives Matter protester at a protest on June 10, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.

In 2020, social media users said they’d wear black on the holiday to shine light on systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. “This 4th of July we’re not wearing red, white, and blue. We’re wearing all black,” read an Instagram post shared at the time by former NBA player Stephen Jackson, a friend of police-killing victim George Floyd. “Independence Day is another Black Out day so they know we’re still in this together. Pass this on so the whole world knows Black Lives Matter.”

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As Seattle’s KGW reported, actor and activist Derek Green also told followers to wear black that year. “No one has been included in this holiday or in this celebration except white people,” Derek said in an Instagram video at the time. “In a lot of areas of the country, it’s used as a time to create more separateness, to create a hierarchy of Americanism where White people are at the top as the truest Americans, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous people barely count, if at all.”

“Celebrate,” Derek told viewers. “Wear all black. Don’t wear the flag because it can be a symbol of hate, and if you feel that way, don’t. Wear black. We can be united under a different symbol … because we are Americans, and we can create our narrative around this holiday.”

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Derek told KGW that Americans can’t deny “the level of pain and suffering that is actually the day-to-day of such a majority of our people’s lives in our country.”

“To be American is to stand up to bullies and tyrants and people who are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and holding them accountable for what they’re supposed to be doing,” he added. “So that’s what we’re doing. We’re gonna wear black because we’re holding them accountable for the things that they’re doing wrong.”

In 2022, people wore black on the Fourth of July to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In 2022, people wore black on the Fourth of July to protest a shortage of independence for women, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which offered federal protection to abortion access.

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Others spoke along similar lines on Twitter. One person tweeted, “Who’s cancelling the 4th of July this year? I’m going to wear black, in mourning.”

Another person wrote, “To honor the death of my right to choose and for all the females who will die from back-alley abortions, I will wear black on the Fourth of July. If you see females wearing black on the 4th, now you know why.”

Flames approach an American flag at the Crown Fire on July 20, 2004 near Acton, California.
Source: Getty Images
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In 2023, people might wear black to protest additional controversial Supreme Court decisions.

If you see people wearing black this year for the 4th of July, it could be a symbol of protest against three controversial Supreme Court decisions that were handed down in late June. In the first, the court ruled that the use of affirmative action in college admissions programs is unconstitutional.

In the second, the court ruled that a website designer could refuse to create a website for gay couples because she claimed it was against her religious views.

In the third, the court rolled back President Biden's plan to forgive student loans.

Needless to day, there are plenty of reasons to be upset and feel like protesting on Independence Day this year, just as there have been for years. Then again, some people might just not feel like getting dressed up in their red, white, and blue for completely innocuous reasons. Either way, here's hoping everyone has a safe holiday.

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