“I am the Darker Brother.”

(An exhibit from the African American History Museum located in Washington D.C.)

These simple words extracted from the poem, “I, too,” carry an electrifying significance.

Decades upon decades of statistical data, poisonous rhetoric, and inequitable policies are clear indications that black Americans are still considered the “darker brother.” However, if vile separatists could have it their way, the brother would be dropped completely and we’d simply be left with being dark.

I believe Hughes made the “darker brother” distinction in order to point out American society’s implication: “Simply because of your melanin, you’re not good enough and you don’t belong here.” It plays upon the notion that but for our sun-kissed hues, black folks would truly know what it means to be American. We would finally be deemed patriotic. The fact remains that history has proven that lop-sided view of patriotism to be erroneous.

African Americans have continuously contributed to American society. Those efforts, often going without thanks and appreciation, have helped America to become the thriving empire that it is today. This country was built on the backs of slaves, catapulting America leaps and bounds ahead of other countries due to its capitalism supported by free labor. These circumstances alone are more than enough to qualify African Americans to require better of the country. However, when African Americans express frustrations with the injustices that continue to exist, it is often met with exasperating sighs and finger-wagging admonishments. But, we, too, are America.

Oddly enough, pseudo-patriots carry ideals steeped in hatred rather than the justice-for-all principles they proclaim. Yes, the “darker brother” reflects the not-so-subtle irony of the “separate but equal” theme applied throughout our history. Nevertheless, we, too, are red-blooded Americans and we have the right to require better of America when it appears to be drifting into the abyss of mediocrity. Though many of our ancestors came here as imports rather than as immigrants, we have a right to resist whenever America fails to live up to the land-of-the-free reputation it touts to other nations.

The watered-down patriotism symbolized by baseball caps and apple pies is revived by the images of counter sit-ins and kneeling protests. Loving America doesn’t simply mean splashing around the shallow ends of tradition; rather, it is also diving deep into progress. Pointing out injustice should not infuriate you; however, actual injustice should provoke the anger of all Americans. Unity in America means that we stand firmly, linked arm in arm as brothers and sisters, in the fight against oppression. Whether you’re the darker brother or the not-so-dark sister—we, too, are America, and we are in this fight together.

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