When you're a kid, you don't really see the importance. To me, I didn't see colors- I just saw people. And it baffled me that people were persecuted, forced into slavery and treated badly just because they had dark skin.
I've grown up now and haven't done anything special for Black History Month since I was in the 5th grade. But, I think it's important that we as a country are reminded of why this month exists. It's more important than ever before.
I am biracial though I am not African-American. I remember in elementary school having to answer what race I identify with. The choices: White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian/Pacific Islander. And each one of those tests, I had to make a decision- what am I? I'm half white, but I'm half Asian/Pacific Islander (I am half Indian, just to clarify). So- which one would it be? Usually, I just chose other if it was an option and I would split whether I was white or Asian/Pacific Islander. Finally near the end of high school, I saw an option meant for me: Two or more races. In 2007, we finally realized that multiculturalism is a real thing.
I talk about this because I realize so much that the idea of "if you're not white, you're not right" is still predominant today. It seems still, in many people's minds, if you are not a White Christian who is straight, you are in the wrong. And that mindset needs to go away. It should have gone away back in 1776. Heck, it shouldn't have existed to begin with.
This weekend opened my eyes to it by two Super Bowl commercials: one from Cheerios and the other from Coca-Cola. I will talk about them both below:
This isn't the first time we have met this family. In 2013, Cheerios also featured this multicultural family in a television spot. The ad, also placed on YouTube, was given some harsh comments on the site, so much so that Cheerios had to disable comments altogether. Some people didn't like to see a white woman and black man married with a cute kid, and Cheerios response to the original ad was that there were many families like this so what does it matter? And they made that statement with featuring this family yet again in front of the biggest television audience of the year (take that critics). What's even better: the fact this family is of mixed race is not even pointed out. There's no talk of the fact that there are different families at all; it just shows that families are incredibly similar no matter what they look like. And I heard barely a peep this time around from those commentators beforehand. Though, I would see them again after this next ad premiered.
Coca-Cola has always had fantastic ads. This one is no different. America the Beautiful, sung in many different languages and showing many different people. Some were angry, saying one of my favorites, "THIS IS AMERICA, SPEAK ENGLISH." Hey, sometimes I wish we could all communicate the same way too. But let's be honest folks; America has, and always will be, a melting pot. We are made up of different races, cultures, languages and religions. Not everyone speaks English and not everyone ever will. And, hate to break it to you, but we will live in an America where the language won't be predominantly English. In the next 20-30 years, there will be more Hispanics than Whites in this country and more Spanish spoken than English. I see it now working in Florida. So, as frustrated as we may get, maybe we all need to learn another language? After all, go to any country in Europe and you will find a person who speaks at least 3 languages (I guarantee it).
Bottom line: These ads show what America has become and what it will be from now on into the future. The mindset of this country needs to change.
Let's take this back to Black History Month. Maybe you don't like him. Maybe you really don't like him and wish that he wasn't President with every bone in your body. But, half of our country voted for him and that says a lot about how times have changed. Our President, Barack Obama, is like me, like many other people in this country: biracial. When I was even young, the idea of having a President who wasn't "the status quo" of White, Christian and straight was a distant thought. Even when President Kennedy was elected, it shook things up because he was Catholic. Half of the country voting for President Obama shows that half of this country doesn't care if he's black or if his father was Muslim meaning he could possibly be Muslim. No, half of this country voted for him because they thought he was fit for the job, and isn't that why we should vote for someone?
He's not the only African-American who has been looked past the color of his skin. One of the most influential people in the world is not only African-American but a woman. Oprah Winfrey is someone that could have a category all to herself. Say what you want about her, but there's something about a person who says that she likes a book and it becomes an instant best-seller. She has launched careers for dozens of people and made them world-famous. She even put a huge league of women behind voting for the President! Not only that, but she is incredibly talented, being Oscar-nominated for "The Color Purple" as well as winning countless Emmys for her talk show. And barely is it mentioned that she is an African-American woman. There are countless other people besides the President and Oprah, but they are two in this modern world that have changed the way we think.
I think about that time in elementary school reading the stories of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream that we would all live together. The dream is still coming true but it's not finished yet.
Our country is in the midst of yet another Civil Rights movement- this time for people who are gay, bisexual or transgender. Gay marriage has been a hot topic in the past decade and we are seeing more and more states recognizing gay marriage and gay rights. And there will be the day that all 50 states recognize it and extend those rights to everyone. Maybe we will even have a Gay History month like we have Black History and Women's History Months. We are witnessing history being made to better unite this country, why not join hand in hand?
I challenge you, America. We have come far, but we still have a long way to go. This Black History Month, let us all challenge ourselves to fight for equality and civil rights, just like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and many others did beforehand. Let's all band together and walk as a nation of equality in this melting pot we call the United States of America.