“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” – James Baldwin
My sister and I came to this country when were 4 and 7, respectively. I love this country for the opportunities it has afforded us. As a 7 year-old child, never had I imagined I would accomplish the goals I’ve accomplished. I don’t think I dreamed of anything other than getting my 64-count crayons back that were stolen and not getting a beating at school. 21 years later, I have a college degree and I’m working towards a master’s. I’ve traveled. I have access to clean water and A.C. It’s not always easy, but I have access to things other people don’t. So, I am grateful and love this country. My life could have been completely different and I thank God for his grace and mercy.
Sometimes, I read things on social media that dishearten me and for this reason I wanted to share some of my thoughts. There are times when people act as if we are incapable of chewing gum and walking at the same. We are multidimensional human beings and loving this country doesn’t mean ignoring or not criticizing it for the harm it has inflicted on millions of people. This country was founded on principles and ideas of freedom and equality, but it was also founded on the genocide of indigenous First Nations people and the backs of enslaved African Americans. The freedom we celebrate today did not extend to everyone. We can acknowledge Thomas Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father and still criticize him. We can acknowledge that Sally Hemings was an enslaved child rape victim, not his mistress. We can acknowledge his role without romanticizing slavery and rape.
We can acknowledge this country is progressive and still critique it for being racist and xenophobic. We can love this country and still critique that black lives are not valued and the criminal justice system disproportionally affects people of color. We can love this country but critique it for occupying other countries. We can love this country and not feel particularly patriotic because this current administration threatens the rights of millions.
Our love for this country doesn’t mean we overlook its flaws. I love my family, but I would be remiss to not acknowledge that they are flawed human beings. I don’t love them any less by acknowledging their problematic behaviors. As a matter of fact, it’s because I care and want the best for them that I do this. We would be remiss as Americans to pretend this country has not harmed and disenfranchised millions of people. It’s because we love this country that we can acknowledge it is governed and made up of flawed human beings with pretty shitty views.
I love this country. I took an oath renouncing my citizenship to my country of birth to become an American citizen. Because I love this country, I refuse to ignore the plight of black and brown people. I refuse to ignore that “all men are created equal” did not include black people. These are historical facts. So, as the multidimensional human being that I am, who is very capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time, Happy Birthday America.