Screw old America, I’ll take the new and slightly improved version

Over a year ago, my father made a series of audio recordings for my brother and me talking about his life and family in rural Arkansas. Those recordings clarified many things that never quite made sense about my father and his family, but also revealed the cold truth of what America looked like if you were Black in the home of the free and land of the brave. My Pops came up under Jim Crow and its remnants and to be frank it wasn’t a pretty picture.

It saddened me to learn that my father had wanted to be a scientist but was told that simply wasn’t possible, after all he was Black. I now understand why my Dad lost his shit years later when a high school teacher told my brother that architecture probably wasn’t something he should aspire to…my brother has studied architecture in Germany, Toronto and other places and now holds two masters degrees. Dad refused to let another generation have its dreams stolen due to bigotry.

Yesterday a friend revealed to me that after being out as a gay man for over 25 years, his family is no longer comfortable with him being gay, as they now live in the south and having a gay relative is a liability. My friend is crushed but as he told me, if he never sees them again, it is their loss as he refuses to go back in the closet for anyone.

So why am I sharing this, you may ask. I was inspired by this post that I came across while perusing the BlogHer site (in all fairness, this was the post featured on BlogHer but I decided to look at the blogger’s site). I am always intrigued when people wax poetic about the old America. At times I have been accused of looking back maybe a little too fondly on the America of yesterday, well there are things that have changed, that I do miss but by and large I have no desire to go back to the old America.

See, in the old America being anything other than white, male, heterosexual or Protestant could literally be hazardous to your health. In the old America being different meant you didn’t have life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. In the old America women were treated like property, not that long ago domestic violence was treated as a personal issue and not as a crime. So if your man wanted to beat your ass, in many places in that old America he might be told to lay off you but that was it. Needless to say a lot of women lived in pain and even died.

In the old America, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered meant you could be actively discriminated against and depending on where you were in that old America you might even be killed and no one would do jack shit…after all you chose to be different. If in the new America you find yourself wondering why there are so many gay and lesbians, it’s because it’s a lot safer to open the closet door. It can still be unsafe but thanks to years of advocacy and public education, chances are better that you won’t be shunned or lose your life.

See, old America was a small minded place that didn’t give a damn about anyone who didn’t fit in the box and while new America at times might seem overzealous with its rules and laws, it’s a far safer place to be for many. In this new America, you do need to be mindful before you open your mouth, you have the right to say whatever you want but trust and believe that ignorance is dealt with swifter than ever before.

In old America, people suffering from mental illness were locked away and hidden instead of receiving the medical treatment they needed and often times viewed as deficient even though mental illness is no different than physical illness.

I could go on and on and in the end, old America was frankly a pretty shitty place for many of us. This new America is no panacea but by golly, I will take it. After all in the old America, I hardly think a Black woman from Chicago could end up in a place like Maine and be allowed to make a difference in the lives of so many, so yeah this thing is personal to me. Good bye old America, let’s agree to never see each other again and I am going to work on making my relationship with new America better.

12 thoughts on “Screw old America, I’ll take the new and slightly improved version”

  1. I read the other blog, from the pointer here and I agree w/ Danielle that there were a couple glimmers of things that have changed for the worse. It wasn’t phrased this way, and they are white things, but they affect everyone going forward:

    In the old days: teachers were more free to teach, because there were far more parents who actually parented, and allowed the schools to be places of learning.

    Now the parents are either completely too damn busy with their own shit, and expect the schools to be daycare, or are helicopter parents who prevent teachers from actually teaching because the kids *might* be exposed to something that is *gasp* different from the straight white patriarchy! And those parents certainly can’t have their children learning to think for themselves!

    A teacher-friend of mine (of color) learned front&center that even a principal that sounded like they had spine upon hiring, would lose it entirely as soon as “the parents” didn’t like something. (But where are the parents the other 99.999% of th e time?)

    That’s one part of the “new America” that I’d like to kick right back to the pile of things we’ve grown passed.

  2. Yawn. Same old tired boring scare the white people fare. She showed her hand right at “A President Who Is Proud To Be American”

    “Bob Rumson is interested in two things, and two things only. Tell you to be afraid of it, and tell you who’s to blame for it.” — Michael Douglas in “An American President” 🙂

  3. 1. I live in NWA Arkansas and racism is still alive and well. 2. I am in an inter-racial marriage. I am Black woman married to a White man, which was illegal in “Old America”. 3. Fuck old America…. nostalgia is a delusion to distract from the fear and pain of the present

  4. The only thing I am really reminiscent of is penny candy, playing caps, and playing the fire hydrants in the South Bronx. I do not miss growing up in the crack era, the guns shot and all the rest of that mess.

  5. Wow, that post you referenced was scary. Seriously? She wants to go back to a time when there was more racism, homophobia, sexism, and violence. And she’s proud enough of that to write a post about it. Lovely.

  6. That post was an icky one to read. I’ve seen many posts and email forwards like it, sadly. Sometimes it’s like some kinda code, sometimes it’s obvious what that person is yearning for. I always read between the lines and picture the downside of the so-called wonderful “good old days”. Not just discrimination, death, persecution if you were a minority or deemed different or subhuman – a religious (or non-religious) faith minority, disabled, non-white, non-straight, non-cis, low on the socioeconomic scale, what have you. But I also think how many children were abused and that was thought of as nobody’s business. How alcoholics and addicts were stigmatized even more than today. How anyone with mental or emotional problems could be locked up and tortured and/or sterilized. The list goes on.

    If someone is nostalgic for something wonderful from the old days, why don’t they bring something wonderful? Probably because those kinds of posts and emails are written out of fear and anger. I have compassion for such individuals but I don’t support so-called ethics driven by fear.

  7. It’s funny, when ever I hear questions like, “if you could go back to any period of time, which period would you visit”? And, I think, “You mean a time when I wouldn’t be a slave or a non-citizen?” Going back in time is a far-fetched as re-writing history: it’s not going to happen. I like the present. And, even though I’m scared about where we are going as a nation, I’m hopeful for the future of brown and black folks–because we have more of a say.

    • So, I took a look at the blog you posted. That shit sounded straight out of Gone with the Wind: It’s always privileged white women who are bemoaning the loss of the glory days, when they were held up on pedestals and had mammies to beckon at their every whim. Posts like those are nothing more than the cry of angst over the loss of privilege.

      In a class I just finished teaching, I had students research examples of citizenship in literature, pop culture or media. A group of my students came across this wonderful gem called Let’s Be Good Citizens.

      This video was made in the good ole “glory days” to train American kids to be good citizens. Who is obviously missing from this video?

  8. I read both of the posts and I can say there were some things I agreed with but the everything else was kinda white. And she sounded like a rethuglican. I know she watches foxnews. Because our President is Black, he’s not proud to be an American? Really bitch? And Capitalism of the past sucks and it was designed for white people to succeed and no one else. So she can eat a bowl of dicks.

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