In honor of the fourth, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to be American. From the very first moment I think about the red, white, and blue, I also must think about the color of my skin, Black. What does America mean to me?
America is the land of dreams. Land of the free and all great things that a country could be. Innovation grows here. Ideas fuel change here. American culture has influenced the entire planet as the centerpiece to global transactions and interaction. No matter what happens in the world, people think America first and go from there.
While at the same time, it’s a double-edged sword. People look to America for what it does right but also what it does wrong. It also is image of all the things wrong with modern society. Capitalism has run wild where we are more likely to waste money to give it to someone else. We burn crops to control demand. We could house every homeless person in America but choose not.
As a Black man, under the glossy veneer, it is a very rotten and corrupt place. Yes, we are lucky that America is a better country than some places in the world, but at the same time, I could almost say the people are worse here. When I went to Ghana in 2014, people were always open to others, talking, laughing, and even sharing with each other. There was a sense of community I never felt in my entire life. I’ve felt community here, but I have to look much harder to find it here.
In the United States, we are only all Americans when white people lose their lives, not when someone who looks like me passes. Immigrants are only bad when they speak Spanish, religion is only taboo when the person is brown, and slang only unprofessional when it comes from black lips. I’m an outsider in the only country I know.
However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The unmatched freedom you get from hopping on a plane and feeling like you are in a different world an hour away. The mixture of cultures, food, music, and even the shared experiences in vastly different but alike communities is invigorating. The small pleasures of running water, consistent electricity, and little worry of violence all means a lot. I even reflect on past fourth of July’s with the enjoyment of cookouts, fireworks, music, and cards. The small things mean the most to me.
I think about all the things I enjoy and it steels my resolve. No matter the racism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, and every other phobia that is equally as America as apple pie, I think about what it could be. I think about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech over and over again. Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Worship. That is the America I want to live in.
I want to live in an America that is devoid of people clawing at each other to survive. I want to live in an America that people are free to explore and develop in safe environments without being treated as cogs in a machine or enemies of the state. I want an America where my livelihood is not jeopardized daily or my life devalued. I love being an American because I cannot give up on what it can be. I’ve seen what my people can make out of nothing, image what we could do with the actual American Dream.
Turn Your Brightness Up!