I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me, “
Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed –
–I, too, am America.
The Fourth of July is a holiday when I struggle. I love the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, but the truth of being Black in America has its challenges. It feels hypocritical. “I, Too, Sing America” is a poem by Langston Hughes that shared the discriminating treatment received by the “darker brother.” This poem was written in 1926. Yet, the words still ring so true. The great contradiction still rings true to me as it did in 1926. The recent Supreme Court decision regarding impacting race. I have traveled abroad and appreciate the life that living in America has afforded me.
Yet, we are mindful of the challenge that we experience celebrating the birth of a country that has enslaved, devalued, and oppressed us and now with the recent Supreme Court rulings, denied that it has had an impact. This follows the celebration of Juneteenth when we celebrate the delayed but not denied emancipation. The continued efforts to oppress Black people should not be surprising. Frederick Douglass stated in 1857, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will!”
The opportunities are clear within this country, yet we continue to be confronted by the racism, sexism, along with the other isms that the privileged and entitled are not confronted with. I struggle with the major hypocrisy that I have been pondering since I became aware, in the third grade. It was in third grade that I made the decision to silently respect the pledge of allegiance without reciting the words. My statement to my teacher was, “I will wait until there is freedom and justice for all.” I am still waiting.
With the celebration of the birth of the United States, it seems to applaud the belief that liberty and justice for all has been achieved. We, as Black people, continue to face the racial wealth and wage gap. We acknowledge the prosperity of the country, that is built upon the backs of Black people who were enslaved, segregated and redlined. The retribution of electing our first Black president resulted in the anger, retaliation and insurrection of those who want to go back in time to recreate a time where oppression was tolerated and celebrated.
Yet, we are distressed when we realize those who have privilege deny access to those seeking opportunity. In the same 1857 speech, Frederick Douglass decried, if there is no struggle, there is no progress. We must realize, there will be no white savior coming to level the playing field. We must collaboratively challenge the systems of oppression. We have tools to help shape the course. We must vote and run for public office. We must identify and stand against policies of oppression.
While we are challenging the institutional systems of oppression, we must also use our personal voice and lives to walk out the ways in which we can empower ourselves and our communities. We must work together to build capacity that can impact generations. I have chosen as my lane to participate in the growth of economic well-being, estate planning. We know that is through generational wealth building that we not only protect what we have created but we also create a platform for multiple generations to launch.
Again, the systems are in place to protect those who have created the system. We must take active steps to build the world that we want to see.