I took note again this year that the Fourth of July compels many Americans to fly the stars and stripes in front of their homes. But as I traveled around the region (greater Washington metropolitan area; as well as a trip to Baltimore), it seemed to be white (and not Black) neighborhoods that had most of the red-white-and blue on display.
I know some African Americans feel this country hasn’t lived up to its promises after the 20th century’s indignities of slavery, Jim Crow and legal segregation. Even this century’s “miracle” of a Black president hasn’t quite moved us as a people to be overt in public displays of affection for our country. Yes, America is great (but it could be greater) is the call and response that drifts through our minds when the national commemorations of President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Columbus Day play out. I understand this lukewarm loyalty. America’s reach exceeds its grasp and African Americans, in particularly, have historically been hurt by this shortcoming. But, even as I have head-shaking moments about some of the policies, actions and decisions of this country, I carry full allegiance to this great nation.
There are only two continents I’ve not visited (and I have no immediate plans to visit Australia or Antartica) and as a Black woman there is no where else on earth that I would rather be than right here in the USA. America the beautiful certainly has its flaws, but there are too few places in the world where we would be at liberty to point this out.
I can criticize, demonstrate, editorialize, and vote my displeasure without fear of retaliation. I can drive my car, reveal my uncovered locks, and flaunt my aging legs without arousing the backlash of religious dogma. I can love (and in some states) marry who I want—certainly a tribute to America’s continuing social progress. I am free to pursue (even if I don’t quite catch) the economic ideal of the American dream.
America’s reach exceeds its grasp; I hope it will continue to extend its democratic influence, and stretch its moral muscle. Meanwhile, on the next patriotic holiday, I’m flying the flag.