Why these Americans aren't celebrating the 4th of July post-Roe reversal

·6-min read
The Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights has some Americans canceling their 4th of July plans in protest. (Photo: Getty Creative stock image)
The Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights has some Americans canceling their July 4 plans in protest. (Photo: Getty Creative stock image)

Fourth of July weekend is a holiday K.P. — who asked to not share her full name — and her husband have traditionally celebrated with fireworks and family cookouts in which the social media marketer and mom would try out new recipes for her loved ones. This year, however, the couple and their toddler son will be staying at home and catching up on chores.

"I want the day to feel as normal as possible when everything around us is absolutely abnormal," she tells Yahoo Life.

K.P. is referring to the June 24 Supreme Court ruling to end federal abortion protections by overturning Roe v. Wade. As abortion clinics close around the country and protests rage, the Pennsylvania native is pulling out of any Independence Day activities "as a direct result of my rights and bodily autonomy being threatened."

She expects to get pushback from her parents, but is adamant about "not celebrating a country that sees me as less of a citizen." That's a sentiment that many have shared with Yahoo Life ahead of the holiday weekend, which this year comes hot on the heels of the SCOTUS decision. "Due to lack of independence the Fourth of July has been canceled," reads one widely shared sentiment, while hashtags like #Cancel4thofJuly urge those reeling from the ruling to stand up for abortion rights by not shopping or buying gas, not attending patriotic festivities and not wearing red, white and blue.

"Honestly, I wasn't in the mood the celebrate the Fourth of July the last couple of years when the disparity of equality in our country was under the spotlight. This year, just a week before the holiday, we've been reminded that we do not in fact live in the land of the free," says Tori Mistick, the founder of a dog mom lifestyle brand who says she won't be taking Monday off.

Carlos Arcos of Houston was "already ambivalent" about celebrating July 4 this year given his disappointment with pushback against gun control legislation following the recent mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. As a gay man, Arcos was also upset by his home state's GOP platform denouncing homosexuality as an "abnormal lifestyle choice." He calls the attack on abortion rights the "last straw," and will be staying home on Monday with his spouse.

"I come from a family that celebrates all the holidays and I usually decorate with flags and wreaths to celebrate July 4," Arcos, who works in public relations, says. "I will not be putting up any decorations this year. There is no reason to celebrate a country that is headed in the wrong direction and run by a fanatical minority. We are once again entering into a dark period in our country's history."

The SCOTUS ruling is just one of many factors that'll have Bob McCranie skipping the local fireworks show he usually attends on Independence Day. Like Arcos, the Dallas realtor is a gay man living in Texas, and says that between his state's threats to LGBTQ rights, the January 6 hearings and the Roe v. Wade reversal, he "just can't get into the spirit." Instead of hanging out with friends, he'll be devoting the day to connecting with a group of realtors who are working to relocate at-risk Texans, including families with trans children, out of the state.

"I used to be very patriotic," says McCranie, whose father served in the Air Force and has family members in the Marines and Coast Guard. "But we are not equal under the law and it's going to get worse."

A lot of people have felt that way for, well, centuries, points out Akilah Cadet, founder and CEO of the change management and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultancy Change Cadet. Cadet, who holds a doctorate of health sciences in leadership and organizational behavior, notes that the holiday is rooted in celebrating "cisgender, heterosexual, land-owning white men" and glorifying a period of history in which Black people were enslaved, and would remain so until 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

While the Roe ruling and other recent developments have been a tipping point for many Americans, "there were many other opportunities, not just in the past two years, to not celebrate the Fourth of July," the executive coach tells Yahoo Life.

Distancing oneself from that legacy doesn't have to actually mean not showing up to a friend's barbecue or not enjoying the long weekend, Cadet adds. It's not about the cookout; it's the conversations that need to be had. What's more important is to recognize and discuss what the Fourth of July represents, find ways to use our privilege to help others — for example, donating to an Indigenous organization or a LGBTQ+ fundraiser fighting for abortion access for all — and reclaim how the day is spent. Cadet cites her own personal alternative to Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude in which she gathers with loved ones, devotes her time to donating or learning more about Indigenous causes and makes a point of naming the land on which she's celebrating.

"Quite frankly, I don't care if people celebrate the Fourth of July or not," she says. "I think it's more so: Are they taking the time to educate themselves on the history of the Fourth of July and what that means? Are they having conversations about what they're choosing to celebrate about this? Are they realizing that, 'OK, we're going to do a family celebration, but we're going to maybe call it something else because we have a better understanding of what the Fourth of July means?'"

Rather than canceling or calling out the Fourth of July, this can be "an opportunity to call it in," Cadet adds. "And when you call this holiday in, it means into accountability, action and change, and how you're moving forward differently. And so I would encourage people to call Fourth of July in and to say like, 'OK, this is a really kind of f***ed-up holiday, but what does this mean for the privilege I have, and what I can do?"

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