Different, not better: My American Life as a Minority
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
An Open Letter From An American Minority
I bear some responsibility for my friends’ ignorance of the issues I face as a member of the Minority. When it counts, I usually contend with the matters of racial disparity or inequality without involving them.
I think I do so out of some innate desire to preserve our friendship; not because I assume our friendship cannot handle it but, because I do not want “Race” to become the focal point of our friendship.
When I am among my friends, I do not feel like “the token Black friend”. I am very familiar with the term and its disposition. I do not want to warp the dynamics of our friendship by introducing racial rhetoric to our light-hearted and humorous relationship. But I should.
My identity matters and being a part of the Minority in my own country means I live a very different life than the citizens who are in the Majority. Different, but not better.
They should know that our values for our country are not identical and that their traditions are not the only traditions worth celebrating - that it is perfectly fine if we do not celebrate the same traditions, because there is plenty of “America” to go around. This country is so vast, beautiful, and filled with life. How could they not accept a difference in opinions and belief of a fellow citizen, especially a friend. If they are truly my friends, they would accept as I accept them. The premise seems logical enough.
The Way Things Are
I am not an extremist but my presence is scrutinized. I pay my taxes, but my rights are marginalized. I served our country, but my allegiance is neutralized. These are and have been the realities of my American life. There exist many more realities like mine and even more completely different from mine. Different, but not better.
The task is not to learn all the different ways one can live an American life but accept the concept that any one path is not the only path. Our country’s laws were written by persons my friends can identify with. Figures who enjoyed liberties held exclusive to them and kept from those whom I identify with.
These facts do not elude me when I am with my friends. They are, however, just facts. Friendships are not based on facts. I chose my friends as they chose me. Each of us became friends freely. As consenting adults, we could sever our bonds freely as well, but is that the only viable solution? To sever a bond when it becomes a burden? To discard something as soon as its losses its luster? Does our connection not have value?
I value our friendship. I value the days we fight as much as the nights we talk. The time we spend together means something to me and simply ending it will do neither of us better.
I would end up missing you and you would end up missing me. And, honestly, we would be too stubborn to admit our regret until it was too late.
So, what should we do? If things are messed up around us, do we insulate ourselves from the world and ignore the issues for the rest of our lives? Should I relegate my differences to only friends who are also a minority or of similar persuasion? What if all my friends did that? What if an entire country were to do that?
I do not know what to do about the country but, I know what I will do about my friends. I will tell them. They will know. They will learn that my American life is not like theirs and they will learn that I am not “okay” with it. I will tell them that I love my country as much as they do, but there are other reasons to love it aside from their reasons. We will have deep, uncomfortable discussions. We may fight because of those discussions. We may never make-up, but I cling to this Hope: they will respect me more for my honesty.
About the Author
Born in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Chris Perry travels the world as he writes for and manages the Grey Point of View. His hobbies include mastering the art of web design, navigating global news, and studying weapons of mass destruction.
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