It’s taken awhile for me to realize how great it is to be American. America has been an interesting experiment both economically and socially. It uses a system of capitalism and entrepreneurialism to draw the worlds greatest thinkers to it’s shores with the lure of the rags to riches story. There are very few countries, if any that provide the same type of opportunity. There’s no doubt that America is not perfect, but in a relative world, America is one of the most fair.
Having studied Sociology at USC, I had a chance to see the underbelly of society. What I saw was disturbing. Namely the mindset of poverty. Coming from an urban community that sees 20% of people living below the poverty line, seeing the struggle with my own eyes, I couldn’t understand how the condition I overcame can be reduced to 2 and 3 word concepts. A culture of hopelessness was the most hurtful. Here I am, sitting in a class with few Blacks and academia pretty much saying, we lack belief in possibility. But why would we really think anything is possible while being Black? Outside of sports and entertainment, there’s the few blacks in whatever industry. Tech, Medicine, Politics, Corporate Leadership, wherever you look there will be few Blacks at the top. And the ones that are at the top, usually appear in stark contrast to the Black person living in poverty.
In coming from an impoverished background and ascending to financial comfort, I’ve seen the prism of opportunity morph into a kaleidoscope. What I once saw, I no longer see. What I do see, I never imagined. It was comfortable thinking about Slavery and becoming agitated and infused with a hatred like emotion. As I learned more and the picture clarified, history shaped my outlook. I saw the ugliness of human nature. Not Black, White nor Asian. But humans. We are, at the root of the evil we see. Africans have committed atrocities against other Africans. Europeans against other Europeans. Asians against Asians. Nobody is immune to it. It’s human nature. In knowing this, I’m not surprised that racism exists. It’s just part of who we are naturally. Our choice is to elevate over human nature.
This is why I don’t see my American citizenship as one solely tied to slavery. I recognize that I have a choice. A choice to live anywhere else. But I live here. I don’t want to live in certain parts of Africa nor Europe nor the Asia-Pacific region, nor South or Central America. America provides peace of mind. America provides opportunity. America provides an infrastructure that can be leveraged. Although America has been at the hands of indefensible atrocities, this is the case wherever humans are present. Life, like the Animal Kingdom is not fair. This is a fact. Despite this unfairness, despite the history of slavery, inequity, prejudice and racism, I love America. This is my home and my responsibility to make it more habitable. Not just for Blacks, but for everyone. Being American is my choice.