Baratunde Thurston on how black Americans make America’s ideals real

by Mr. Sheehy

As I look at my own story and that of my family, even as I write this book, I recognize that this is an impressive and bold country whose ideas of what it means to be a country are still, over 230 years after its founding, revolutionary.

The missing link for many inside and outside of Black America has been to fully understand the role black people have played in helping make those beautiful ideas more tangible and more real.

Our early existence in America exposed the nation’s shortcomings from the start, and thanks to our struggle, America has become more of what she has the potential to be. As Derrick Ashong put it, black people in America ” have literally been the physical embodiment, the manifestation of the ideals that the Founding Fathers said they believed in, thought they believed in. But they didn’t exist until us. That’s something to be proud of.”

True black pride is also American pride, and black people truly are the most American of people in this country. We have nowhere else to go! So as much as we might feel some distance between us and the U.S., and as much as others may try to push us away and claim directly or indirectly that we’re not “real Americans,” that line of thinking is patently false and a disservice to everyone.

This country is our home, and we helped build it both physically and morally. The struggle of black people in America, therefore, is the struggle of America itself to, as damali ayo put it, “get behind its own dream.” (212-213)

– Baratunde Thurston, How to Be Black

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