I believe that needing, clinging to, and craving a revised history of the United States of America is fundamentally unpatriotic. To love America but refuse to acknowledge its oppressive past and the way that past continues to impact the present is to not truly love America at all. It is to love a fictional America. It is to love avoiding our personal discomfort with our history more than we love this great nation. It is to be willing to sacrifice the future of America in order to hold on to the sanitized version of this country’s story- for we all know that those who do not understand the mistakes of their past are doomed to repeat them, and that it is impossible to move forward from where we are without critically examining how we got here. We should love America not because it is perfect, but because we can look back, see how far we’ve come, and have hope for continued progress. Dr. Melissa Harris Perry put it quite well yesterday when she said:
“Our founding is an unlikely narrative of young men so inspired by an age of ideas that they threw off the yoke of colonialism and founded a free nation. Men who were, embarrassingly, imperfect. The land on which they formed this union was stolen.The hands which with they built this nation were enslaved. The women who birthed the citizens of the nation were second-class. But all of this is OUR story. Each of us benefits from the residuals of oppression, and each of us is harmed by the realities of inequality. This is the imperfect fabric of our nation. At times we’ve torn and stained it, and in other moments we mend and repair it. But it’s ours- all of it. The imperialism, the genocide, the slavery… also the liberation, the hope, and the deeply American belief that our best days still lie ahead of us.”
Furthermore, it is never the place of a group with a privileged identity to tell the group with the corresponding oppressed identity how they should feel, act, approach, or speak out on their oppression. You just don’t get to do it. Be quiet, listen, read a book, and figure out how you can best be an ally.