On Being An American- 7/25/16

I can remember every time I’ve felt like an American. I can count them on two hands.

Maybe just one.

Watching Kerri Strug vault, on one leg, in the 1996 Olympics.

On 9/11.

While studying abroad in London, in 2007.

Watching President Obama be sworn in during the 2008 and the 2012 inauguration.

And tonight when First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the DNC.

I spend most of my time in this country feeling mostly Black and female. Two things that proceed my entrance into every social and professional setting. The two things that make me, in the words of Malcolm X, “the most disrespected” and “un-protected” person in America. The two things about who I am that I wear proudly with love while sometimes crumbling under the weight of their burden.

Tonight, I was reminded that I descended from people who built this country. Slaves, inventors, scholars — -Americans who look like me and my family — - laid the foundation for the land of the free and the home of the brave. People like Dr. Charles Drew (blood transfusions — -you’re welcome!) and Elijah McCoy (inventor — -automatic lubricators for trains and ships!) changed the way we healed our citizens and pioneered our modes of delivering cargo. George Washington Carver (you can thank him for your peanut butter protein smoothies and sweet potato fries!) and Garret Morgan (traffic lights!) revolutionized how we eat and travel. The list goes on and on — -though not in many history books. And thousands of unknown, nameless slaves built the many historical landmarks we all hold dear.

So, from this day forward I, Black and female, will remind myself and others of how America came to be “great”. I will remind myself and others that I, too, am America. In fact, I am more American than the men who will spend the next several months referring to myself, and my fellow Americans, as “sub groups”. I am the very soul and heartbeat of this country. And when this country needs saving — I, Black and female, will show up armed with tough love, dripping with elegance, emotion and intelligence urging us all to get to work — -just like our FLOTUS did tonight.

Iman MilnerComment