“I came here for a better life for you and our family.”
This perception we all grow up with as Africans in America. The familiar phrase summarizes the United States in such a way that we forget to feel the residual effects of the “not-so” opportunistic country our family has settled into. For so many, like myself, being critical can mean being ungrateful. For the past couple of months, I have tried to understand my place in this country with a newly elected President, who has every vice imaginable that would’ve commonly resulted in a quick dismissal had his skin been the color of, say, President Barack Obama. Nonetheless, here we are, all of us living in a country reiterating its foundation of equality, opportunity, social mobility and freedom.
These ideas and concepts we’ve grown accustomed as synonymous with America. With every speech and address, we hear those words, even from our very own black President, illuminating our potential and quietly, re-imagining our history. As important as it is to affirm our abilities, it can be equally detrimental; this fatal oxymoron of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shadows over us. By us, I mean black, of color, Muslim, immigrants, those with disabilities, convicted, and so on.
Yet here we are, in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, on the heels of his campaign that shouted declarations of "Making America Great Again," as if in some way, shape or form, America lost touch with it’s inception and creation. Maybe it has. Maybe what made America “great” was its exclusion of anything other than white, because quite honestly, our founding fathers didn’t have any of us in mind. Maybe my parent's sacrifice was null and void the moment they entered this country. Maybe it was all for nothing.
What is it that we are aiming for? This dichotomy of my parent's dream and the American dream disorient my feelings towards this country. It makes me angry and disappointed that this nation is viewed as a beacon of hope, falsifying its discriminations and prejudice. More heartbreaking, the dreams of African-Americans, whose roots are within the seams and thread of this country's foundation and creation, can be found in opposition to this country’s promise. But, I’ve realized that with this dichotomy, opposition and irony comes liberation; I wouldn’t want our notions of dreams and success to align with the United States, I don’t want our hopes and affirmations to find solace in the workings of this country, but in the workings of us, of our resilience, strength and sacrifice.
The more I’ve realized the distinction between America’s promise and it’s reality, the greater I value the dreams of my parents, the more I appreciate the sacrifices of the African diaspora and the stronger I value the resiliency of African-Americans.
And for that, I say, “thank you."
Thank you to my father, mother, diaspora and black community for providing the dream of hope, freedom, and resilience that we looked for in this country but instead found in ourselves.
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