You and I Can Only Happen In America

America is easy to hate these days. Always has been. That level of disdain usually is determined by your specific place on the social hierarchy of hatred. For example, if you’re a straight white man, America is a fucking cornucopia of opportunity and freedom. It’s a wonder how anyone could despise your beloved country. But if you’re a lesbian Black woman, America to you is quite possibly the worst fucking place in the galaxy. In fact, you’re probably on Expedia fishing for one way deals to the next planet in our solar system.

As for me, a light-skinned, straight man of color, I happen to fall sort of in the middle of that social spectrum. On many fronts, I’m privileged in my straightness and maleness and likeness to a member of the Debarge family, but I’m also disadvantaged in terms of my blackness and lack of substantial net worth. And these disadvantages aren’t meager. Just my association with my demographic alone comes with a high mortality rate, a high likelihood of being racially-profiled by law enforcement; and since I’m Afro-Latino, I’m sometimes treated as an illegal immigrant even though I’m Puerto Rican, of whom are American citizens.

And while I’ve had my fair share of mistreatment and prejudgments, I still love America. I still think this is a great place to live. And though I may fantasize about escaping to France or some desolate island paradise to retire, the truth is my black ass is staying put here in Chicago – dead smack in the center of America and all her glorious fuckedupness. And I’m cool with that.

But to see things from my particular perspective, you’d have to have had the fortune of being able to travel the world and visit other places to see how things are done elsewhere.

My journey happened to be sponsored by my time in the United States Marines over a five year period. Some might say the military is what made me falsely patriotic. And I’d be a gawd damn lie if I said that being a Marine didn’t have at least some influence on my love for my country, but for the most part, my military service had nothing to do with it at all.

What I want to make perfectly clear, however, is that I am not happy with America. I can run down a list of things that sicken me from our President to our annoying ass politics to the undercover racism and daily prejudices deep within people that surface to disrupt many of our daily lives. The shit happening in America is enough to make you shed blood. And I’m pissed off about it. But my love for my country makes me want to fix these things rather than complain about them and leave them to fester.

Yet, with so much to hate about the U.S. of A, so much of what has made me as a person could have only been fostered in the United States.

I consistently tell people how Hip Hop saved my life. How it kept my hard-headed ass out of trouble and kept me alive. Hip Hop, even today, is a huge portion of my life as a 40-year-old man. But it’s important that we recognize that Hip Hop couldn’t have been birthed nor grown in any other place on this planet than right here in America. In fact, the things we hate so much about this place is what created its existence in the first place.

And basketball, though invented by a Canadian, came-of-age here. It became a mega-sport here. It saved thousands of young Black men from the inner city streets and poverty – and kept thousands more out of the grave. Some of the same can be said about baseball and football and hockey. Those sports were created elsewhere, but the capitalism of the United States is what allowed their leagues to become giants of business generating millions and answering the dreams of their respective athletes and fans. Ironically, that same business of it all is where America’s ugliness also lingers when you consider how racism and classism moved from the plantations to the playing field.

Still, though, I can go on and on about the things created right here in the United States that we all benefit from and wouldn’t give up in a million years. Our iPhones. Our fast food. Our right to express our shitty opinions on social media. There are so many things we take for granted and look over that only exist right here. Simply creating a small business to earn money on the side is incredibly simple here – whereas it is virtually impossible in most of the world.

Hell, sometimes, as Americans, regardless of background, we have an elitist perspective when it comes to the rest of the world. We ignorantly believe for whatever reasons that other places are just like us. And that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Even our closest neighbors like Canada and Mexico are very different. There is a reason why migrants journey from Central America and Mexico through all sorts of conditions knowing they are going to be treated like shit when they get to our border. It is because the conditions they suffer from at the hands of our government in the name of border control is a better option for them than continuing to live in the shit storms their mother countries offer.

I mean, think about it, we have a freaking show called 90 Day Fiance that tracks the drama of people marrying into citizenship here. People from all over the gawd damn world come here for one reason: the pros of America far outweigh the cons. If they didn’t, those that claim to hate America so much and loathe all that happens here would have left for greener pastures a long ass time ago. But they stay. They stay because even if they don’t consciously recognize it, there are things they love about America too.

So, yes, I am unhappy with a lot of things about this country, but the greatest thing about this country is that I can do something about it. I can spark change. I can express frustration. I can rant about American racism and classism and bigotry by utilizing my American rights on American social media. As a pissed off man of color, I can honestly, in good conscience, celebrate America on Independence Day. I can do that because the truth, if there ever was one, is that I love me…and I could have only been made right here. The United States of America. Just like you.


Written by Halsted Jones

Proud Afro-Latino just trying to do the WRITE thing.

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