Maturing Our National Identity

As the new American story emerges, it is evident that its citizens’ identity is maturing. Personally, my American identity is not the same as when I chose to serve in the US Air Force forty years ago. I remembered the stories my father and uncles told me, and I still enlisted. As an African American male, I, like my father and uncles, have pride along with a love-hate relationship with our country.

As this country includes contributions and trauma from its minority cultures, my relationship with America is changing for the better. Some citizens resist this inclusion of minority community experiences in our school’s history programs.  However, I believe resistance is futile, and America’s cultural identity is maturing.

I used to be a member of the conservative Christian culture, and many of us have traded up for spiritual communities that are more inclusive, showing that change is possible. My mother’s brother was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, twenty years before I was station there in 1978, and our stories are different. My father’s brother James enlisted in a segregated US Army. My father enlisted a few years later, and integration was the law, and their stories were very different.

As our nation’s historical timelines include experiences from all cultures, the identity of our citizenship matures. I did not live in the 1950s, but after seeing the Hidden Figures story, my love for American culture went up a notch. We all want to embrace excellence, and we are motivated to act accordingly. The African American children of today need the historical context of their ancestral contributions to this nation. I have no doubt white children will respond with pride, just like I did to historical information, primarily about white people’s contribution to our country.

The more complete our understanding is, the more inclusive our culture will become. Many of our citizens remain segregated in pockets of partial information living in fear of things we do not understand. As my social consciousness expanded, I am still in awe that I once embraced such a  black and white, pollyannish view of the world and America. I saw a meme and agreed that I also learned more about Black history in 2020 than I did over the last sixty years.

I can honestly say I have more love and compassion for this country because I know what people experienced before me. When we include the trauma and contributions of all cultures on our American timeline of history, we get to see a rich context of this grand experiment. Each generation forges a new identity. While some may resist, America is maturing. In some years, our identity leaps in its development. As we look back over 2020, many of us can see how much we have grown up during the pandemic. Happy Birthday, America!

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