When Michelle Obama remarked, ““For the First Time in My Adult Lifetime, I’m Really Proud of My Country,” members of the American status quo went ballistic. The American status quo simpy cannot imagine any American not actually “feeling” like an American. Apparently, it is un-American to not “feel” like an American in spite of all that America may have done to you, continues to do to you or its failure to always regard your citizenry as an important part of the fiber that makes America great.
Yesterday was the Fourth of July, 2013. When I awoke, one of my early thoughts was to install American flags on the windows of my truck. It was America’s birthday and time to celebrate. I thought of the pictures that I would take and of the settings required for proper exposure and the desired effects. I thought of my husband’s late night toil over his grills, time with my family and the walk up the hill at the end of the day to view the fireworks. Ah, the fireworks… the best part of the Fourth of July. Nothing, however, is more amazing than the looks on my daughter’s face as the explosions change color and change shape in mid-air.
Viewing last night’s fireworks show with my family was especially difficult. I was uncomfortable because I had no answers to the my daughter’s question of, “Mommy, what does that word mean?” The word that she was referring to was the racial slur that we were called both as we walked to the top of the hill to watch the fireworks and as we sat. “Niggers!” The people on the back and inside the pickup truck yelled at us. They circled the area at least three times and yelled the obscenity. My husband, the retired Marine, was furious. “When does it end?” He questioned, and my heart sank…both for him and my daughter.
It’s typical for someone who does not share my lineage to remark, “Why not just ignore it?” or “Don’t let it bother you.” People really have no idea how the slur affects a person whose lineage includes the denial of basic human rights, lynchings, senseless killings, rape, people being burned alive and many other forms of brutality when the slur has been used. Someone who does not share my lineage does not realize that the slur/title has affected the entire socioeconomic ability of my group and as such, cannot simply be “ignored.”
I did not take any pictures. My mind was scattered. I learned at a very early age that when a group of people in a pickup truck call you a “nigger” it is best that you be on guard.
So when Michelle Obama remarked, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” after her husband won the election, I understood. I understood what she meant at that time and I still understand. I didn’t “feel” very American last night as the word “nigger” always carries the implication that this is not my country, too. Perhaps when I figure out a way to shelter and protect my children from this senselessness I will go back to “feeling” American (in spite of having been born here).
Happy Birthday America. Perhaps I will feel more American and will be able to take pictures next year.