When I was 13 I got into my first fight. I had never before thought of raising my fists against anyone, but in the sixth grade I was dealt my first racial blow. A kid made fun of me and told me to go back to Africa. I knew this was bad. My daddy told me so! And he said I must always fight for my rights -- fight for what I believed in. Never let anyone make me feel inferior, he said.
So what did I do? I fought. And I got in trouble.
Despite my sixth grade rumble, I didn't particularly subscribe to my father's philosophy. He said I would always be scrutinized when applying for jobs. He said I wouldn't have the same opportunities extended to me as others.
I decided to fight in a different way, by treating myself as an equal.
So, in the world of adulthood I applied for jobs -- I got them. I got promoted. I did not heed my father's warnings. However, I witnessed others jump on the bandwagon. They said: "It's hard to get jobs because I'm black." "I'm not accepted because I am gay!" "It's hard because... history has made it true. Because the world hates us and we hate the world!"
When I was a child, it had never occurred to me there was a difference. Maybe I was readily equipped because I had a 'white' mother and a 'black' father. But I naturally assumed, had this instinct, that we were all human beings, and therefore had to be equal. What was all this hullaballoo about race, religion or being gay anyway?
I know what has happened historically. I know what the African-American, Jewish and Native American peoples suffered due to racial hatred and intolerance, due to centuries of misinformation and cataclysmic thinking. Today's civil rights movement has expanded to include the LGBTQ community as well as women's rights.
Generation by generation -- lies, misunderstandings, and unasked questions fed into the destruction of equality and the idea of human beings actually being 'human.'
America has twice accepted a black president, and many have rejoiced they are fortunate to witness such a miraculous feat. While I am exhilarated by this leap in humanity, I am also disturbed. Why should it be so miraculous?
Shouldn't it have been our way of life? Politics aside, shouldn't we celebrate that we have another visionary among us, someone who has dared to live a life that is extraordinarily different from what history has laid out for him as his fate? He is a man who has chosen to actively pursue the definition of "We the People."
That's what I am celebrating.
We the People. We as a People. We as human beings. We as You and You as We. People. Equal. Free.
Yes, it is about time we understand exactly what that means -- 'We the People.' How far are we willing to go to see progress?
Even now, there are groups of people pissed off as we rejoice in transformation. Clutching onto their weapons, whether it is guns, or words, or a backwards philosophy -- threatening to use them to express their feelings of injustice, and to hold onto their old ways of thinking. Progress to them, is to stay rooted to history, to maintain the world with their standards, their ideals. "See that person over there. No, don't look in their eyes. They're not one of us. Remember that. Don't ask why, child. They just aren't."
While I was traveling in Italy I had a profound understanding of what equality meant. I stood out on the train balcony and watched the world go by. We were next to the ocean and I looked out into the great blue expanse and I inhaled the scent of the living, the extraordinary aroma of being alive on this plentiful Earth.
I felt that sense of belonging so strongly, it moved me to tears. "I'm home." I didn't mean Italy was my home, rather that the Earth was my home, that there was no boundary. I had a right to simply exist. To be. I exhaled with that knowledge.
When I returned to my cabin I was confronted with a different reality. Three Italian women bored holes through my head. I had been talking with an attractive Italian man while standing out on the balcony, and from what I gleaned from their conversation; they did not like that at all. I had no right. Italy, and everything that belonged to it, was theirs.
I thought of possession, and how historically we have fought for what we've dubbed as ours. This type of possessive thinking has spawned discrimination, wars and death. We fight over land, the color of skin, food, religion, sexual orientation, the right to exist as we are.
There's enough to go around, isn't there? The Law of Equality would say it was so. Equality would say that we are each entitled to the same opportunity to live, and that we are each the same -- human beings who live in one home, one Earth, one universe.
But we don't live in the land of equality. We're still fighting civil and global wars.
Just how far have we truly come?
Half of America has embraced our black president. What is it going to take to move the majority? This black man, who is also white, who in fact represents ALL of us, will continue to make history and continue to break barriers and continue to blaze his path down the lane of historic achievements. I will claim them as my own, claim them as a part of my heritage, as it is also yours.
I will stand tall and live and walk as an equal in my home, this grand Earth that is not only America or Italy or Africa or China. This nurturing sphere of life houses each and every one of us.
And I will fight for that right -- to exist. To love. Equally.