In this current political climate, there will be people who will look at this title and wonder, “why didn’t he say Young Black American,” as to suggest that I am somehow attempting to ignore what I am proud to be. I decided to simply state “Young American” because as I work through these thoughts, I hope to paint a picture that all Americans can understand and agree with. After all, I love this country and all of its perpetual promise, and because I love it so, I have no issue pointing out the issues and deficiencies, that, if addressed, would push us closer and closer to perfection. I do not know of any other home, and I want my home to be better. We can improve, own up to our shortcomings. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to become an elected official, to add to and improve this experiment. America can still be that shiny beacon on the hill.
Race will always continue to be an issue in this country because there are too many Americans who will not accept, or fail to understand, the generational effects of slavery. Slavery is America’s original sin. This country was built through the existence of slavery. This country ripped itself in half because of slavery, and centuries later we are still dealing with those effects. I am not lobbying for reparations, however, I would encourage you to read Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations.” Ultimately, I am lobbying for understanding that I hope will reach influencers, decision makers, and people in power that will be able to make changes in their networks that will benefit the greater good.
A change in thought could make all the difference in our communities and our country at large. When sound reasoning and acceptance of past mistakes influence our thoughts, only then will we truly make the world a better place. Policies that will close the wealth gap between races and gender will go into effect. Mortality rates of minority women during birth will fall. Minority athletes will not be told to “shut up and dribble,” but in fact, their opinion will be as valued as that of any other person. Black communities will not be characterized as “inner city,” run down, crime-infested, or poor. What politicians will see is an opportunity to improve lives, instead of pandering for votes during election season. When we have a change in thought, we see people as people, and do not let preconceived notions and biases rule our decision making.
The only obstacle to changing our thoughts, words, and deeds is the continued glossing over the centuries-long ripple effect of slavery. Reconstruction (1865–1877) was a brief period where America looked poised to become a utopia and live up to the ideas espoused in the Declaration of Independence. That dream was very quickly and violently deferred with the inception of Black Codes to the era of Jim Crow to discriminatory legislation and policies influencing our country today. Only recently have Black Americans tasted some semblance of the freedom that White Americans were able to enjoy since 1776. When you truly understand or care to understand what Black Americans have endured for decades, you understand that when we fight for progress, we are fighting to improve America, to make it be everything the founders wanted it to be. When you understand that, then it’s no longer an “us vs. them” but instead the struggle for progress truly becomes the struggle of all Americans.
Look for ways to understand. Ask real questions. Don’t let social media and tribalism take you off your path to understand. Talk to your elected officials and ask them how they are being inclusive with their policy decisions. Check your own biases, we all have them, but once you’ve identified them then you must cut out unhealthy practices. For centuries, we just wanted to be seen. Still today,we want to be treated with respect and be seen as a human being. Even when I was running for office, I expected to be harassed or bothered because I was a young Black man seeking an office that had never been held by someone of my skin color. Too often, we are placed in categories and seen as the “other.” If you read this far, I am asking you to help me truly make a difference in our country. We are the keepers of a history that has long been denied to us. We are the ones that must push our history forward in honest and substantive ways.