Over the past few months, I have quite a bit of time to think about that question and to decide what “American”, actually means to me, first as a human, as a female and finally as a black person. Honestly, my conclusion is always the same, I am blessed to live in the greatest country in this world. Sure, we are not perfect, we had an unfortunate start in that the Natives lost their lives and their property, Africans were enslaved for the benefit of plantation owners and even some Europeans were indentured servants to the wealthy and affluent. These acts cannot be overlooked or forgotten, however, what makes this nation great is that we have continuously tried to move in the direction of becoming a more perfect union and in my lifetime, I pray that we will continue to do so.
The Founders understood that in order for different people to live together in a country divided across race, gender and values that a certain set of principles would need to apply. Ideally, their vision was for people to self- govern based on a shared set of morals rooted in respect of life, property and the rights of others, but in a new world unchartered at the start, it was probably best to establish some important parameters. Those parameters began with the creation of the Declaration of Independence, but that was just a primer for creating an entire nation from an idea, a lofty idea that would appeal to our highest ideals rooted in natural law, established by God.
I could go on, but as not to turn this into a Constitutional review, what I really hope to encourage, is that every person reading this post, will take the time to read our Declaration of Independence as well as our Constitution. The Constitution is not an antiquated or out of touch document. It was written by wise men, not only to establish and address the concerns that were prevalent in 1787, but to be forward looking for such a time in which we currently live. In fact, in the preamble, it specifically states that it was written to secure the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Our future as a nation.
In my opinion, the Constitution is second to the Bible, in its governing principles. As you know, it was written by men, who thought it was wise to create and establish a government that would honor God through Christ, but would also respect the values and traditions of those who did not share or believe in the Christian values that were the underpinning of our Constitution. That right there is the main reason, I believe it supersedes any other governing document written.
Yes, I know, at the time the Constitution was written, slavery was an integral part of the commerce of our nation. And potentially, had I been alive at that time, could have been born on a plantation and lived a life of inferiority. Thank God, that has not been my experience in this country. Sure, I know that racism still exists in parts of the country, and perhaps even in some institutions. What I don’t believe is that there is an underbelly waiting to enslave black people and others of color in the way that it did in the early history of this country. I do believe that it is now time to acknowledge the past, and to understand that many chains of slavery still exist in the hearts and minds of individuals, while simultaneously, working together to reach the fullest ideals established when the Constitution, became our founding document.
Destroying and burning down, and screaming hateful epithets about our country do nothing but further divide us along arbitrary lines. We can never become a more perfect union, when hate and anger are the prevailing thoughts. We can and we must overcome our destructive desires to ensure that every American is fundamentally considered equal.
In conclusion, what does it mean to me, to be an American? It means that we will one day, in my lifetime, collectively reestablish the belief that we are all created equal by God and we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty and our own pursuits. Until, then I will continue to live as a free and sovereign person made in the image of God.