Symbols matter. I am sure that the image you clicked that lead you to into this post made you at least raise an eyebrow. (At least, I hope it did.) There is a story behind this picture that I have been trying to find the right words to tell. So, here we go…
A friend gave me a plain red ball cap a few months back. We were outside and I needed something to cover my head. Looking at that red cap I noticed that I hesitated to put it on for some reason. I pushed past the initial reaction and went on about my day.
Weeks later I was walking around my house doing something and I saw that same hat laying on one of my tables and I felt that twinge again, only this time I registered anger. So, I gave it a few minutes thought. I don’t have a problem with ball caps. I am a fan of the color red. Why was this cap evoking an emotional response from me? I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Not long after I was surfing on Facebook when I got my answer. I scrolled up on a picture of a family I know on vacation with their kids and both of their children were wearing Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps. A number of emotions washed over me in that moment, anger, betrayal, fear…
Now I was born in 1980 so I grew up hearing the original slogan of “Make America Great”. I have also been black my entire life. Statements like this do not leave most African Americans feeling overly patriotic. Why is that? We are just as American as our melanin-deficient brothers and sisters. Or are we?
After 400+ years of contributing to what we now call these United States of America, African Americans are still not considered by all to be a part of the definition of America as imaged on those hats. We are viewed by some as part of the obstacle of what stands between America today and the America envisioned by those who don those caps and rally for an America that bears little resemblance to aspirations of our founding fathers,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I thought back to the hat that sent me down this rabbit hole and I made a decision right then and there. I found a pin I picked up from an amazing vendor at the Village Market Atlanta and put it on that hat as a symbol, a reminder to myself:
I am an American.
I am a black American.
I am an American with African ancestors.
I am an American with European ancestors.
I am the dream of America.
I am the reality of what it is to be an American.
For America to be great, it MUST include me and mine. There is no alternative to that simple fact.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Lubbock, Texas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.