I am so grateful to live in the United States. It’s taken me an extra day (past July 4) to post because I’ve wanted to write something meaningful about Independence Day as I’ve read and pondered on the experiences and feelings of those in marginalized groups.
For me, I have always reveled in the amazing diversity of this country: the land itself features stark deserts, craggy mountains, rolling green hills and flat plains with marvels you have to see in person to really appreciate, and I have been able to do that all over the U.S.
More importantly, the people in this country are wonderfully diverse! I love to meet people from all over the world, and it’s so fun to be able to do that just living here in my own country (though I do love to travel outside of it too). Everyone looks different, speaks different languages, and brings rich cultures with them. My own family happens to be very American in that way: pretty diverse. White European, Filipino, mixed, black. I have a Mexican aunt and mixed cousins.
I know racism exists, and it makes me sad. It can make me angry. I just don’t understand it. I think some people will never change: they will hold on to their prejudices no matter what. On the other hand, I think education, sharing experiences, and working with others one on one can change many people’s minds and actions (and re-actions). But it takes time and work.
I am aware that in our country’s history, there have been atrocities. There continue to be horrible events resulting from individuals’ prejudices. Systems in our society do have some outdated practices baked in to them that continue to create gaps in equality. And on both of those counts, we all need to step up and speak out to create change. I think it’s also important to recognize that not all blacks or Asians or whites (etc.) think alike. Blacks have many varied opinions and experiences, as do Asians (etc.). People’s experiences inform their opinions and the conclusions they draw about action that needs to take place, and I’ve observed plenty of diversity in those conclusions.
I respect the feelings of some blacks, for instance, whose experiences have led them for the time being to feel bitter about this country. That saddens me, but that’s where they are. Others have mixed feelings about the United States but ultimately love it and work for change to make it even better because they love it. That’s where they are. I won’t disparage anyone’s feelings but state simply that I see you and hear you and join with you in making things better that need to be better. I can say that it’s important to respect people’s feelings, and to listen to others’ opinions and experiences regularly.
However, all of us, based on our individual diverse lives and experiences, will come to very different conclusions on the actions/changes we think need to take place in society, government and other institutions. Just because we may disagree about which things need to change and how doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other. (*Most of us respect each other, that is. I’ll say it again: some people will continue to be racist and have prejudices – and that can include people of any race; racism/prejudice is not restricted to whites, as my Asian husband can attest, since he has faced taunts from blacks in the South, for instance – we simply will not eradicate racism.) If I draw a different conclusion about some changes and how they should be made from some of you or some prominent thinkers, it doesn’t mean I haven’t considered their experiences and opinions; it simply means I have done so and have drawn different conclusions.
And that is my long-winded take on independence and this great land. I love this country and believe it is a special place. It can be better, but we as citizens must do better because we ARE the United States. We should all a) get and stay informed, listen to each other with respect and carefully weigh all we read and hear from a truly diverse set of outlets and individuals, and b) elect representatives who will truly represent the people, all of them, and work with each other and compromise. We can overcome the division that is happening. This can be a truly UNITED States.