I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook about Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC. Several posted that it was so long ago and she should just get over it already. Rather than see it for what it was, a statement on the progress our country has made, many have felt she was taking it to a racial thing. Not only do I not agree, but I really don't think that a lot of Americans get it.
It has often occurred to me the irony that 96 percent of my ancestry treated 4 percent as less than civilized human beings. I can't explain how it feels to realize that one part of your heritage believed that the other part was savage, uncivilized, and a threat to society. To know that thousands died being forced from their homes. That even when they became educated and christian they were still only "exceptional for their race".
So it's not hard to me to understand how the grandchildren of a Holocaust victim still feel the pain of the systemic genocide practiced against them. Or how the descendants of a Japanese American may still resent the internment camps during World War 2. Or how those who lived through segregation in the south still feel the anger at lynchings and Jim Crow laws. I don't have to be a Jew, Japanese or African American to understand their feelings. I just have to be a human being.
Perhaps it's easier for me, because it doesn't matter that 184 years ago the Choctaws lost their ancestral home, or 111 years ago the final act that took away their tribal lands and divided them. It still makes me angry when I think about it. I understand how it doesn't matter if it was 5 years ago or 50 years ago. The fact that injustice was done isn't restricted by time. How we act upon it however is important.
The United States has some dark history. We have not always treated people of all religions equally. We definitely have not always treated all races equally, whether they were African American, Native American, Mexican, or Asian. We have not always welcomed immigrants with open arms. Before World War 2, they enacted a requirement that immigrants must be able to read and write to enter, stopping an influx of Europeans trying to escape what ultimately was the death of thousands during World War 2.
As a child I remember the arguments over the Vietnamese boat people and letting them in the United States. There was a time if you were Irish, Catholic, Jewish or Eastern European and you immigrated you were considered less than other whites. This country has not been known for it's tolerance and treatment of others. We still are intolerant. We see those who practice hate against people that are gay, lesbian, or transgender. We define all people of a religion as terrorist. We label Mexican American's with derogatory terms. And after all this time, after a lifetime (mine) of Civil rights, race is still an issue in pockets of America.
More people need to actually learn about their country's history, as much of it is never taught in classes in public schools. or even in Universities. More people need to understand that in hindsight history often shows with glaring clarity the darker side of our nation. We need to do better. We can do better. And it starts with understanding how far we have come.