This post originally appeared on February 20, 2008
"Hope is making a comeback and, let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."--Michelle Obama at a rally for her husband, presidential candidate, Barack Obama
Mainstream liberals and conservatives are in a tizzy about what Michelle Obama said. Now, I find the oaths to religion and hyper-patriotism that we require from political leaders (and their spouses) to be unproductive. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." But that aside, is it wrong to not be proud of one's country?
Proud: adj highly pleased, exultant--Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Despite her many achievements, Michelle Obama is still a black woman in America. And here is what Americans too often forget: marginalized groups, including black people, have a different relationship with this country than "mainstream" men and women. Our histories are different. We are prone to seeing and experiencing the worst of what the country has to offer. We have scars from times when our country and its people have not loved us. We care about America and many of us would never live anywhere else, but pride is sometimes elusive.
If America was high school, mainstream folks would be the spirit team, proudly wearing varsity jackets and class rings, painting their faces and screaming on the side lines at the big football game. The jocks and cheerleaders and popular kids--they get the best out of the high school experience. It is made for them. And they are proud. We marginalized people, we're not usually on the spirit team. We're more like the barely-tolerated goths and chess nerds. High school is not meant for us. We don't fit; we're outcasts. We cheer when our team wins, but our love is not as fervent, because it is tempered with reality. We know the side of high school that no one wants to talk about--the hypocrisy, the unfairness, the favoritism for some, the ostracizing of those who don't fit in.