I read a thoughtful piece in the LA Times outlining why this mother made the difficult decision to leave the US and raise her children in Canada. The daughter of immigrants, she doesn’t hate the US. She came to understand that raising her children here would require that she teach them to conform through the “hiding” of their religious and cultural practices in exchange for access and acceptance within their former white suburban neighborhood.
This article reminds me of my growing up in the Midwest after my family left the South. The pressures to conform to fit in were tremendous. I trained myself to drop my southern accent. I changed my hair and clothes to try to immulate or perhaps a better word is approximate what my peers were doing in the hopes of gaining acceptance. My teachers required that I address them in ways that were considered disrespectful in my family and the culture in which I was raised. Changing me was the cost of gaining access to educational opportunities that were not available to me in my hometown.
It took a long time for me to recognize that while tolerance was possible, acceptance was unlikely to happen no matter how hard I tried.
You can’t legislate social acceptance, that is a reassignment of the heart that is unique to every individual being, but you can work to protect the safety and well-being of all community members without victimizing the minorities. The U.S. has a lot of work to do in that category.
I admit, this stuff isn’t easy. Easy is grouping off with people just like you where you don’t have to make extra effort to understand cultural differences. Easy is denying that we struggle in this country with how differently U.S. citizens are treated when they encounter law enforcement or engage the legal system. Easy is pretending that censoring our nation’s history in the classroom is about protecting the feelings of some and not acknowledging the harm we do when we don’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
No one said being a citizen of the United States of America was going to be easy. With every passing day you can feel the electric crackling of change in the atmosphere and the charge is continuing to build. How we choose to continue this American social experiment of our republic will be quite the tale for future historians because make no mistake, we are at a turning point.
I’ll close with this. I know that it makes some people uncomfortable and sad and maybe a little angry when they see other citizens express a lack of enthusiasm or outside refusal to celebrate American Independence Day. But if you see a friend post something like that, and they are truly your friend, why not respectfully ask them if it would be alright to have a conversation so that you can better understand their feelings and perspectives? The experience of living as a citizen in this nation is not uniform. There are citizens who have inequitable access to the benefits of U.S. citizenship so it is not surprising to me to encounter another citizen who struggles with celebrating July 4th. It’s not always about comparing the U.S. to other nations. Some of our countrymen and women raise their voices of dissent as a reminder that this nation pledged itself to an ideal at its founding to be a free land and we have not yet achieved that state for ALL citizens. Until we do the most patriotic act we can engage in is holding our leadership and ourselves to the promise to be a land of the free.
Marta is an award winning filmmaker, writer and producer committed to sharing the rich and complex stories of America’s Heartland region. Marta wears several hats as Chief Creative-in-Charge of MartaGwyn Productions, LLC as well as the Co-Founder and Senior Grant Writer of Youngblood and Associates, LLC and Chief Operations Officer of Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services, LLC.
Marta is also the founder and editor-in-chief of TheWRITEaddiction. An online community of writers that publish creative and inspirational works daily at www.TheWriteAddiction.com.
Marta is an alumna of The Ohio State University and Tougaloo College with degrees in Sociology and English-Journalism and resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and unconventional college sweetheart of 11 years, Terrance Youngblood.