American Nightmare

The other night I went to this major going-out-of-business sale at an old warehouse downtown. The place was chock full of framed artwork, fine linens, and designer shoes. Even the sidewalks were spilling over. And then I woke up and my great dream evaporated into a tangle of hot bedclothes. What a nightmare! I had labored hard over each selection (whether it was it a need or a want?). The things I thought were real had been taken away in a blink of an eye.

So it is for so many people of color with the so-called American Dream. The freedoms and privileges that looked so real crumble so easily in times of adversity. We have seen it in heart-ripping color during the weeks following the terrorists’ attacks on America. With the rising of the September 12th sun, a new group of American residents have been victims of profiling, threats, and plots of murder.

Sadly, though, it is not a new nightmare. It has happened to Japanese-Americans (six years of internment for looking like a kamikaze pilot), Native Americans (the Trail of Tears, the forced westward migration of all eastern tribes in 1840), black Americans (the Dred Scott decision, countless lynchings, Jim Crow laws, and on and on). Sadly, these terrors will continue in some form or another to peoples of color in the US. This is America, after all — a sometimes Christian, sometimes humanistic, always volatile experiment in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

The next time you sing “God Bless America,” replace the name of our country with Americans that don’t look like you, maybe even some that were born on other soil. If you don’t know any names, then take that as a wake up call to expand your concept of our God-blessed land. It has taken more than mountains and prairies and foamy seas to make it lovely and sweet.

.August 2005.