Blacks Must Add Missing Ingredients to the American Melting Pot, by B.B. Robinson

On a recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden, I took a daylong bus trip for tourists. It featured some of the most important historical and cultural sites the nation had to offer. It also made me think about what may be lacking in America, particularly among African-Americans.

My tour guide, who was extraordinarily knowledgeable, aided me in coming to this important realization. She took such joy and pride in describing her nation’s culture and history that it made me realize that this is a missing ingredient in the African-American experience. African-Americans have worked to build the United States in almost every capacity imaginable. Think about it. We have fought in our nation’s wars, we have died here and abroad defending our nation and we have represented our nation abroad. But do we feel the same sense of joy and pride about the United States that a European-American feels? Shouldn’t we?

Of course, we should! But, for a variety of reasons, many of us do not love this land, ourselves, and others living in it the way we should. There are deep psychological causes built into the explanation of why we are not always exuberant about being American. There is, of course, the history of slavery. We also cannot forget the marauding dogs and the water hoses of the Civil Rights Era or reverse-affirmative action. There are white supremacist hate groups as well as allegations of continued discrimination in the worlds of education, employment and finances. Clearly, these historical phenomena affect the way we view ourselves and how we perceive our place in the nation.

This prompts an oft-cited realization. It is paramount that we love ourselves before we can begin to entertain the idea of loving our fellow citizens and the nation as a whole. The “Black is Beautiful” phase used in the Civil Rights Movement forced us to look at ourselves and begin to love and respect each other even though we had brown skin and kinky hair – traits we had been taught to hate.

But this phase did not last long enough to facilitate our going beyond just surface considerations in our behavior modification. We did not study our history long and well enough to come to love and respect our magnificent contributions to the formation of America.

These contributions, and the contributions that we continue to make, should force us to realize that we have played an extraordinary role in making the United States what it is today. Fully understood, this realization will give us an internal and external sense of value and worth.

The true value and worth of ones deeds, however, are only perceived when they are recognized and praised by others. Yes, Asian, European, Hispanic, and Native American groups within our nation must acknowledge the contributions of African-Americans. And, of course, we must acknowledge theirs. It is through this type of mutual recognition and respect that unity of purpose and love can be engendered, which can transform how we perceive ourselves and others within this melting pot and produce a sense of joy and pride in being American.

It is only when the entire nation has a sense of joy and pride in being American that we will all be willing do what is right by ourselves and each other. To date, these have been the missing ingredients. We must add them to the mix if we are to survive as a nation. Right now is as good a starting point as any for filling in these missing ingredients.

(B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and an economist. He can be reached at [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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