I was once that kid with an odd love of country. I remember lying on my bedroom floor, legs kicking behind me, as I filled white, glossy poster boards with charts and tables showing the significant events of the American Revolution: The Boston MAssacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Saratoga. The story of how the colonists stood up to the bully King George and demanded their freedom – fought to the death for it against an empire – arrested my imagination and sent electricity running through my little veins. That was the America I knew: the land with revolution in its DNA, the land with Lady Liberty anchored at its gate saying, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I believed in that America.
It wasn’t easy for me to conclude, years later, that racism was part of the cake of American society, as opposed to a fly nibbling at the icing. It was like losing belief in God or having your heart so broken that you are closed off to love. I didn’t want to believe that racism was alive and well in the country I loved – more deeply entrenched, more pervasive than I’d ever imagined. But, as they say, the facts don’t care about your feelings.
I had so many feelings about this, though. There were many afternoons when I’d drop whatever book I was studying and weep over the crimes my country had committed and hidden. On some nights, I’d fall on the floor, groaning in tears over the friends who had turned on me for speaking up about those crimes. Somehow, my efforts to share the truths I was learning about our country was interpreted by them as hate: hate for them as people. Hate for America.
From “All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep: Hope – And Hard Pills to Swallow – About Making Black Lives Matter” By Andre Henry