Opinion by Frank Alim - Miami, Fl - 7/16/2016
The current events in Minnesota, Dallas and Baton Rouge have the entire country on edge. For many, the argument is that regardless of one’s ancestry, we are all Americans and no one should be considered less so. Competing with this philosophy for conscious attention is the oft articulated claim that African-Americans are in fact not being treated equally.
What is curious to me is the apparent distinction between Americans who are Americans, and Americans who are hyphenated or prefixed.
As a born in America man who is of part African and part Hispanic heritage, I would like to ask, "Am I 100% American, am I some part American and some part African, or am I 100% African-American, or am I a 100% mix of Afro-Hispano-American, or am I still something else?"
Who is going to definitively tell me – the Euro-Americans?
The Franco-Americans? The Russo-Americans? The Italo-Americans? The Slovak-Americans? The Asian-Americans, the Native-Americans, The American-Americans? How can we pursue equality as Americans, if we do not openly and publicly declare ourselves all to be “Americans”, and not some sort of hyphenated or prefixed hybrid Americans instead?
I admit that I have a difficult time completely letting go of the emotional and psychological effects of the African slave trade. My great-great grandfather was the son of a white slave owner and an African slave. I know my great-great-great grandfather's last name but I have no idea what my African name is. That bothers me. I don't know if my great-great grandfather was the product of love or rape. That bothers me. But whatever happened there isn't a thing I, hyphenated or prefixed or not, can do about it.
I have been denied service at restaurants in Alabama. I have been called nigger with the vilest hate from some white men. I have been in fights for the same reason. Yet, in my lifetime I can easily estimate that well over 99% of the white people with whom I have worked, known, or just exchanged pleasantries have been kind and respectful, and none of them were hyphenated or prefixed.
I have also seen Crips beat a white man to near death.
I have seen Bloods kill Crips.
I have been called nigger with the vilest hate from some black men. But easily over 99% of the black people with whom I have worked, known or just exchanged pleasantries have been kind and respectful.
I was alive when Dr. King was assassinated. I saw Mr. Obama elected president twice.
I never knew my father. My mother is a lost soul. Mainly raised by my grandparents, I saw my bricklayer grandfather get up every day at 5:00 am to go to work. I saw my cafeteria working grandmother do the same. This made a huge, positive impression on me. I, too, worked hard, did my homework, got college degrees, and as a result make a nice living and am happily and proudly a University of Miami Hurricane fan and booster.
Societal evolution is a subset of human evolution. If I had to pick a time period to be living in it would certainly be today as opposed to 100 years ago. If you were to ask a former African slave in 1867 after the slaves were freed if he felt like an American, I'm sure the answer might well be provocative. If you were to ask his living descendants the same question, the answer could still be provocative. But evolution reminds us that although perfection never comes, the human condition as a whole always gets better.
So I see an interesting outcome from the recent tragedies. I think that we, Americans, are coming together and that the current black versus white, or white versus black, outrages are American tragedies 100%. Only a sociopath could not empathize with Baton Rouge, Dallas and Minnesota. It is that empathy, I believe, that is bringing and has already brought us together. We have a black president, two black Secretaries of State, a black Attorney General, two black members of the Supreme Court, numerous black generals, numerous black astronauts, and the first black female lieutenant general (3 star) who also happens to be the highest ranking woman to graduate from the U. S. Military Academy.
We are changing; we are growing. Today, when I see a police officer, I smile and extend my hand in appreciation.
If I happen to meet family members or friends of Alton Sterling, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, or Philando Castile I respectfully honor their loss, a loss felt by so many Americans. 100% Americans.
...I see a person...
When I look in the mirror - I see a person, a human being, who might be someone else's friend, or family member, or doctor or lawn man or police officer.
When you see me, do you not also see someone's friend, or family member who lives in America? America is my home - I am an American.
Is this Miami ‘Cane fan 100% American? Yes, I proclaim that I am. And I believe it is indeed time to drop the hyphens and prefixes.