I defended my country, the country I love, in WWII but when I came home I was denied service at the lunch counter.
I defended my country, the country I love, in the Vietnam war but when I came home they turned the fire hoses on me when I dared to vote.
I defended my country, the country I love, in the Iraq war but when I came home the police still stopped and frisked me for no reason.
I am a person of color and I joined the military and I am veteran today because I love my country.
Yes I love America but America has not treated me fairly. America has enslaved me, segregated me, denied me the right to vote, denied me equality in housing, wealth opportunities and education. It has jailed me at in-proportioned numbers. Slowly I have seen things change, gotten better. But these changes did not happen by themselves I had to stand up to the country I love and demand that it lives up to the promise that it was founded on – All men are created equal. I did not stand up to America because I hate it. I did not kneel in solidarity because I disrespect it. I did it because I love my country and make no mistake it is as my country as much as anyone’s because despite the obstacles I had to and continue to endure I continue to create breath taking masterpieces, inspire others in literature, art and music. Produce life saving breakthroughs in science and medicine. I continue to achieve great things each and every day and with each step I take forward I leave an indelible fingerprint on the very fabric of a country.
So no matter how hard some may try I will not be silenced I will continue to shine a light on social injustice. Continue to demand that America live up to her promise. After all dissent is the highest form of patriotism and I love my country.
There are those who say there should be no Black History Month and to be honest I wholeheartedly agree with them. Not because of the reasons they cite for its elimination but rather because you cannot neatly package the black American experience, the accomplishments as well as the past and present injustices into 7.67% of the calendar year.
One of the characteristics that make America great is that it is the product of the numerous and vastly different cultures that have come together in one place to make a better life for themselves and in the process make this country a better place. Black Americans like so many other groups have and continue to leave an indelible imprint on this country’s greatness. From Cripus Attucks widely considered to be the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War to former President Barack Obama, this country and what it is today would not what it is if not for the accomplishments of the black American.
Yet for all it greatness America also bares an unpleasant stain on its resume and we would be remiss to ignore or pretend it does not exist. This stain is not simply Black history it is American history and it must be taught to future generations and discussed in an honest an open dialogue. For as Frederick Douglass said “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” That unpleasant stain is of course America’s treatment of the Black American. From the stripping of our culture to the chains of bondage forced upon us; From the lash of the whip to the rape of our women: From the separation of families to the denial of even the most basic education for our young; From the countless number of non-prosecuted cases of murder to the reign of terror carried out by such terrorist organizations like the KKK; From the institutional and legalized discrimination practiced under Jim Crow to today’s use of discriminatory lending, hiring and housing practices. The black American experience has been met with countless hurdles throughout American history and those hurdles cannot nor should they be expected to be neatly packaged into 7.67% of the calendar year. The history is not a comfortable one to remember but remember it we must so that the suffering of millions of black Americans wasn’t in vain. So that as a country we can learn and grow from the mistakes of our past so that it can never happen again. And so that young black Americans can grow up with the understanding that despite all we have been through as a people not only are we are still here but we have and we continue to accomplish great things every day.
As a nation the only way we can continue to grow and maintain our excellence is if we move forward together as one. Black Americans still face many obstacles in this country but it is our country. We have fought for it and died for it, we have contributed to both its excellence and its flaws. We are as much a part of the fabric of this country as any other group. So no the Black experience is not just something that should be acknowledged for just 7.67% of the year because Black history is American history and that is history we all make every day.
Black History Month.
The road has been long, the obstacles have been many, yet endure we have and our struggle, while not as pronounced as in the past, remains very real. But there is one thing that has carried us through the night and that will continue to carry us forward to the light and that is our unshakeable faith in ourselves and our right to be treated as an equal among all people in this world.