My name is Chelsea Williams and I am not afraid to say that I am currently not proud to be an American. Before you get up in arms, do you realize how cool it is that I am able to say that? In a world that is home to nations such as North Korea and Russia, where expressing dissatisfaction is similar to putting a target on your back, I am able to state that I am not proud of my country without putting myself in danger. At least I think so (Hey, NSA). I’d also like to stop you once more and say, while I am not proud to be an American at this point in time, I recognize that I am incredibly lucky to be an American. There are many places in this world in which my rights would be nonexistent simply because I am a woman. Yet, I get to live in a country where I am allowed to speak my mind, drive a car, vote, among so many other rights. I am indeed lucky. I practically won the Birthplace Lottery.
And part of my winnings is that I get to speak up when I think things aren’t going well. I am able to lobby my elected representatives and give them information about how their constituents would like to be represented. I am able to vote. I am able to shout into the void via a blog post and hope that it sticks somewhere.
In the last few weeks, you may have heard about Colin Kaepernick choosing to sit while the National Anthem played at an NFL game and the backlash he has received. If not, here’s an article for you to read. We’re at a time in history in which Donald Trump, a white man, can use his platform to state that America needs to be made great again and be met with applause. However, when Kaepernick, a man of color, executes a peaceful protest with the same message, he is first met with hate and vitriol.
But this isn’t about Trump or Kaepernick. This is about bigger issues. America, what are we doing? We often pride ourselves on being the country in which citizens can speak up and out. We often prove ourselves wrong during situations such as these. I don’t know that America ever has been great–we have a long history of questionable morals–but I believe that we can be. And I want us to be. I want this country to recognize the great diversity that exists here and celebrate that diversity instead of viewing it as divisions.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. I wouldn’t have guessed that, in 2016, a quarterback’s actions would be sparking conversation about racial justice in America, but here we are. Now we get to decide how to move forward, engage in healthy and respectful discussions, and create partnerships, in order to bring about equality. I am optimistic that this can be done, and American will be great.
NOAH (Networking, Organizing, and Advocating for the Homeless)
GMF US-2, Class of 2015