How do you think it feels knowing that your race caused decades of inhuman suffering and cruelty on a group of people that didn’t deserve it?
It’s the end of Black History Month, and after African-American citizens spent four weeks reflecting on their own history, I thought it was important that I took a moment to reflect on my own.
When I was thirteen, my great grandmother informed me that her father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Wearing the white robe of evil and judgement as if he were as clean as snow, he marched with his brothers in uniform against those of a different color from him with a sign filled with spite in one hand, and a torch burning with hatred in the other. She never learned if her father quit the organization or not. She found his uniform in the attic later on when she was an adult.
The rest of my family’s history isn’t much better. My dad’s uncles thought African Americans were selfish, lazy human beings, sputtering racial slurs at them while they drank their glasses full of whisky. Friends of my mother’s parents jokingly called them “jungle buddies.” Things only started getting better for my family when my mother stood up to her white classmates for her black friends when she was eight years old in elementary school. She was ridiculed and called by her classmates a “nigger lover.”
Bad as that is, I know it isn’t half as bad as what some of her friends had to face during that time.
Nowadays, with everything that has been going on in Ferguson and Staten Island, I sometimes find some people judging me and labeling me as a racist just because of the color of my skin. They don’t say this in words, but in silence: in the eerie, guarded ways they stare at you and in the sharpness in their breathing that feels like blades to your character.
I understand their contempt, and if I were in their shoes, I would probably judge myself too.
I’m not proud of the things my ancestors has done. I’m not proud of the things my entire race has done. In fact, I have to live with the fact that I’m living in a former slave state back when the south was considered the Confederate States of America. How can I say I’m proud to be a Texan, when I know all of the gross, unforgivable things we’ve done as a state?
But here’s what I need to keep reminding myself: it’s not me. I am not my family. I am not my origin. I am a passionate citizen of the United States of America. I love my brothers and sisters of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. I smile when I see them exercising their rights of freedom of expression, and I cry when I see them discriminated for their beliefs and appearances. I am filled with joy when their voices are heard, and I am filled with grief when their voices are silenced.
I am not my history, and for that matter, neither are you. We all should be proud, equal citizens of the United States. It’s high time we start acting like it.
– David Dunn