I watched my mother become an "American" right before my eyes. From the immigration interviews to the study guide of American history, it was a journey my family took part in since my dad first got on that plane in the 1990s to start over in the "Land of the Free." Surrounded by a plethora of colors of people from hijabis, to Hispanics, to Asians, I didn't know how lucky I was to be sitting in a room watching history happen right before my eyes. A little girl was criss-cross applesauce in the darkroom measuring the door for her 3rd grade math homework as she watched those people, and her mother standing and pledging allegiance to the flag for the first time. With Barack Obama on the screen welcoming them into the nation, that we were all standing in and for the first time as a part of it. I saw what it took to become a naturalized citizen by the book, but I don't think that's what it means to be American.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The pledge is the nation's raw nationalism for this red, white, and blue country. Have you ever heard the term you are what you eat? Well, whatever this nation claims to be, its citizens must be as well since we make up the nation as your food makes up your stomach.
"Indivisible" means not divisible. America isn't supposed to divide into sections or divide. The term implies a lack of judgment between Americans. Yet, here I am experience where my peers wold laugh at my father’s accent and the tears that would gather in my eyes stll deemed me America. I not only felt the divide. I lived within the divide of living the duality of Nigerian-American, never enough to claim one indvivally, and never wanted to. The judgement stemming from the American side of the divide made me want to do nothing with it. The names, the teasing, the bullying, I was judge for an identity I didn’t fully understand, one I became to hate.
" Liberty " means the quality of being free. America is free, meant to be a place of free will to the extent of the law. Yet, the privilege of being truly "free" in America is something that, as a young black woman, I have yet to experience because I will always be subject to the division of my color. I will be subject to racism, sexism, classism, and the list contines, so I how would I pledge to such a flag ?
Lastly, "justice" means the quality of being fair, just, or impartial. The courts that fail to rule on this aspect in the cases of Amadou Diallo, Aiyana Stanely Jones, Sean Bell, and so many more, as I continue to have to say their names, it seems the "American" in me is dismantling piece by piece.
According to the pledge, the qualities that the American people recite in their classroom and their churches and hold so dearly to their hearts are non-judgemental, fair, and just human beings. Those qualities are what it means to be American if we are coming from an idealistic approach. Those are the qualities, the American dream holds one, that when I sat in the room with Barack Obama on the screen is once I thought was worth losing the other half of duality for, but t wasn’t never will be. The majority of the presidents, senators, supreme court members, or anyone who works for this country cannot fall into those categories. My mother has to get ten questions right about U.S History to become a citizen, and the unsaid part is paying tens of thousands of dollars even to have the chance to take the test. In contrast, I had to do nothing but be born in Dekalb Medical Hospital in Decatur, Georgia. Hundreds of "Americans" have taken either route, and neither makes you or me, an American.