On the eve of Memorial Day I decided to share a recent experience. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping at a store that I frequent. As I was walking through the aisles trying to be obedient to my prepared shopping list (the horror!), a young white man spoke to me. I wasn’t expecting it but as he walked past me, I realized that he said, “Hello” or something of that nature. I responded with “Hello” and proceeded with my shopping. Honestly, I didn’t notice much about him other than his head was kind of down, he was wearing a red hat, and a red employee vest. We were headed in opposite directions of the aisle. As I made it midway through the aisle, I heard him speaking very animated to a couple. To a white older couple; he was showing them his hat proudly, and said, “Make America Great! You like that, I had it made!”
Huh?! What just happened? The couple seemed uncomfortable and sort of laughed it off and kept it moving. I do not know if they knew him; if they are regulars at the store and this explains why he felt comfortable sharing his brand new red hat that he had made with them. I do not know if this is why he spoke to me in the first place. Wait! Did he speak to me and conveniently drop his head so that I could notice and read his hat? I didn’t. I only noticed it after he drew attention to himself by boasting a slogan, or sentiment that is perplexing to me.
It’s sad if he was trying to deliberately offend me. It really is. He does not know me and I do not know him. I could have been the staunchest Republican ever. And maybe he’s not a Republican either. Maybe he likes Trump or the idea of him. Maybe he just liked that slogan. Who knows and at this point, who cares? For that matter, just because I am a Black Woman, I’m automatically a Democrat a la Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporter? We both are entitled to our political viewpoints and personal values. The problem is when these preferences are used as a weapon to harm and to hurt.
I wish the young man had been bold enough to read his hat to me like he did for that couple. Because I had a comment for him. Or actually, I have a question. When exactly was America great? Just to be clear, questioning Americas greatness is not my mantra but his or maybe his candidate’s…they are saying that America is not currently a great country. Really?
What makes this so in your opinion? And please enlighten me and tell me what era in our country’s history was it so “great.” I need you to answer this question for me as a woman who also happens to be Black. Let’s hear it. Was it the early 1800, 1900s? During the Great Depression? Or let me guess, the 50s and the 60s? As we take a day to honor the men and women (who represent all nationalities, religious backgrounds and races), who paid the ultimate sacrifice, how dare you attempt to insult me with your hat…if this is what you were aiming to do. How dare you? I forgive you because if you knew better, you would behave better.
I happen to believe that as a nation we have quite a few challenges to overcome still. America is not perfect but I do believe that she has greatness in her because of her people. I do believe that we are better today than we were yesterday. There is no one politician or political Party that can take all of the credit for how far we have come, or be blamed for how far we still need to go.
Just like a slogan and hat is not enough to affect positive change, neither is a platform built upon divisiveness and hate. Your political or religious views do not make you or I a better person. Talk is cheap. Only our actions and coupled with our sincere and collective pursuit for justice and equality for all will we accomplish that.