Et Tu?

President Obama and Laura Bush watch first lady Michelle Obama embracing president George W. Bush at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Who are the Americans in this picture?

“I, too, am America,” said the president. The President of the United States of America, that is.

He didn’t just say it once. He said it twice, but it seemed like I heard it at least four times. How ridiculous that the democratically elected leader of the free world would say it even once.

But that’s because since he became president, some have been trying to delegitimize him. To say he wasn’t American. That he is other.

I can’t tell you why. I don’t doubt that there are multiple reasons, and I’m sure that different people have different justifications and different combinations of pretext.

But thinking about it, when folks see people as other what does that mean? If they are other, are they not people? Are they animal? vegetable? mineral? monster? Does that make it easier to dismiss that other? To strip from them their humanity, their fears and struggles, their dreams and loves?

It’s pretty easy to be an American, though. In fact, we’ve welcomed people who are tired or poor. We’ve embraced huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We’ve provided refuge to the wretched from another country’s teeming shore. We’ve provided a future to the homeless and those tossed by tempest.

America has work to do in order to live her ideals when it comes to people of color, people of non-Christian faiths, people who have different abilities, people who are poor, people who don’t fit heteronormative beliefs, people of different backgrounds.

But who is that “America?” Is it other? Is it not her people?

I, too, am America.

Ouch.

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