Eleven years ago, the world as we knew it changed. Whether for better or worse is yet to be determined. There are so many things I remember about that day and the days that followed: sitting on pins and needles waiting for “the next one,” learning that friends and family were OK, mourning the loss of so many innocent people, etc. What I also remember about that time was an incredible feeling of unity. For once in my life, I didn’t see color; I saw my brothers and sisters.
But that didn’t last long, did it?
Fast-forward eleven years later, and you’d never know that we had once been so patriotic and tolerant…hell, just plain friendly. Our elected officials can’t agree on what side of the aisle to stand on, we’re more afraid of law enforcement than actual criminals, and it costs more to go to college than to buy a car. Why, you ask? Simple: because those we’ve entrusted with making decisions to improve our way of life have all but done so.
2012 has seen more than its share of injustice. One of the most notable cases, the murder of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, is proof that we’ve forgotten the lessons learned from that fateful Tuesday morning in September, 11 years ago. We learned that innocent, defenseless people don’t deserve to die. We held vigils, built memorials and sent up thousands of prayers for the lives lost and families affected that day – as we should have! However, when an unarmed African-American teen is shot in point-blank range, people dare try to justify it as self-defense and stand behind a law that doesn’t apply. Elected officials went silent, and our sense of unity and patriotism went the ways of bigotry and racism.
I distinctly remember that despite my fear, there was a sense of comfort I had in knowing that my American brethren would have my back in a time of need and I could depend on them for support. But after witnessing that, along with my own run-ins along the way, I realized that we had indeed forgotten what we learned that day.
It’s because of events like Trayvon Martin’s killing that African-Americans can’t quite identify with the idea of being a “proud American.” While I’m not anti-establishment, I do believe that some of the fundamental principles of being “an American” are not conducive with being black in America. And this didn’t start with Trayvon, nor will it end anytime soon. Fact is that this belief is what keeps young African Americans from voting, pursuing higher education and exploring life outside of their own backyard. Many of us are fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to experience college, internships and traveling the country (and the world); however, more of us don’t even know the opportunities exist.
I personally do believe I am an American and that I’m due the same rights and privileges as my white counterparts. I am, however, not ignorant to the fact that I will have to fight longer and harder to be seen as an equal and to get truly equal treatment. So as we reflect on this 11th anniversary of the attacks on our country and the lessons we learned from that unfortunate day, ask yourself: have you forgotten?