Yesterday the President eloquently spoke about that Travyon Martin case and what it means for Black America. For many African Americans including myself it felt as though our truth was being spoken at the highest level possible. It was almost a relief to hear someone acknowledge what so many of our sons, fathers, brothers and friends have endured as African American men in this country. For a second I thought, here is a Harvard educated man, raised by his White mother and grandparents, and the leader of the free world, surely no one will be able to refute HIS own truth. Wishful thinking.
It is mind boggling to me that others have now attempted to disagree with his statements as if to say HIS truth cannot be true. If that sentence sounds odd to you realize it is because this viewpoint is not logical and not due to a poor choice of words. A reasonable person could cite incidents in history and even current events for the basis of this opinion so it is not far fetched for the President to feel this way. More importantly, no one has the right to question another person’s experiences as an American because we all experience it differently.
Our country is so diverse and with that comes vastly diverse experiences. I cannot tell an immigrant how it feels to come to this country and attempt to assimilate all while trying to hold own to the culture. Nor can I fully express how it feels for Hispanic citizens of this country to be profiled as illegal or not belonging. I cannot tell them about their own experiences in this country because they are not my own and are outside of the realm of my own experiences as an American.
When I think about this diverse country that I call home I remember as a kid watching the “Melting Pot” episode of School House Rock and loving what it symbolized. It described how for the most part we all come here from different places, different cultures and even speak different languages but we “melt” together and form this great cultural fabric that is America. When I think of this “melting “my favorite example is food. Consider the number of Italian restaurants or Mexican restaurants in your area. These cuisines are so engrained into the American culture I almost forget that they are not labeled American cuisine. Despite that distinction you would be hard pressed to find an American who could not name a staple that would be served at an Italian restaurant.
The melting of different cultures is one of the things that I love about this country. Unfortunately I think we can lose sight of what this melting actually means. When we melt together it does not mean that we create one homogenous country similar to how many of us view Sweden. We of course likely share similarities as Americans and value certain freedoms such as freedom of speech and religion. Citizens of other countries who do not share these freedoms may find this odd but for us it is part of our shared identity as Americans. Despite similarities we still can differ in many ways and it is our differences that make this country great in my opinion. Our differences ensure that on a Friday night you can find a restaurant with an authentic cuisine from probably anywhere you can imagine in the world. It is intellectually dishonest to not recognize these differences as a reality and how they shape the way many of us define being American.
As Americans I think we should not only be aware of this fact but be accepting as others open up about their own unique experiences even when it exposes a dark truth about our country. During his speech the President alluded to our forefathers by stating that we are becoming a more perfect union not a perfect union. These imperfections have various impacts on us all. If we are not honest and open then that means we are not moving towards a more perfect union as the President describes.