Independence Day this year comes at a pivotal time in America. It’s not a time for celebration but rather a time for reflection. Over the past month alone, we have grieved, we have grown, we have been pushed to our breaking point and we are tired.
As I sit here reflecting on what it means to be American, I am not proud and I know that many others share that same sentiment. I want to do better, be better and most importantly, I want to see change for our future generation. There is no freedom to celebrate if freedom isn’t for all. In the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Dominique Fells and countless others, we still have a lot of work ahead.
This year, I’m not celebrating America as it is today. I’m reflecting, listening and remaining hopeful in the America I know we can be. I’m using this as an opportunity to hold myself accountable because, more than ever, it’s time to walk the talk. Here are 5 things you can do right now to be a better American.
“There is no freedom to celebrate if freedom isn’t for all.”
Want to be a better American? Start by exercising your right to vote. If you’re not registered, why not? If you simply haven’t cared enough in the past, ask yourself, how come? If you chalked it up to “not being political” realize that is privilege in and of itself. It’s time to care and it’s time to wake up.
To check your voter status and to register to vote, visit: vote.gov.
Give a Sh*t
Practicing empathy is no longer a courtesy—it’s a requirement. We must go outside of our bubble and realize the injustice that is happening all around us. Simply turning a blind eye is shameful. Being American is not about loving your country, the flag, or the president (-_-). If you cannot have compassion for people of other walks of life, you’re missing the point.
If you read this and felt like it doesn’t apply, I encourage you to really dig deep. When injustice happens, how do you react? What have you done to make a difference? Take action and do it with every ounce of your being, because the lives of real human beings depend on it.
“It’s not enough to not be racist, we must be anti-racist.” This phrase has been emanating in my ears since I first digested the information.
To fight racism is to immerse yourself in learning and understanding every aspect of it and not just at surface level. Know the difference between institutional, interpersonal and structural racism and be proactive in educating yourself and others on how you can be part of the change. True allyship is found in action.
To be a better American, we must acknowledge that inequality has been systemically ingrained into our institution since the beginning of time. So much of America’s patriotism has been built around the premise of “freedom for all”.
Take the Declaration of Independence for starters: “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.”
For Black Americans, this declaration is completely broken. America’s independence cannot be celebrated until Black independence and freedom is celebrated and honored.
If we want to change America for the better, being silent is not the way. We must speak up, whenever and however we can. That can be in the form of having tough conversations with peers, strangers, family and friends. It can mean attending protests to help spread awareness. These are all crucial, actionable steps in helping to dismantle systematic racism. Use your platform, use your reach, use your voice. We need you.