“Welcome to America”

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

– Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

This 4th of July is a slightly different one for me than the others I’ve already had living in the United States. This is the first one for which I am no longer a foreigner in the land I live in, but a part of it as an American citizen. Also, in less than a couple of weeks, on July 12th, I will be marking the 10 year anniversary of me moving to Louisville, Kentucky. Back then, I was a 16 year old crossing across two different worlds, coming from living in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, it others it feels like just a few days ago. So, I am motivated to personally reflect on my time here so far.

Here is me and my little brother and mom (also relatively new citizens) from my naturalization ceremony in April 2016.

That being said, something I have to guard myself against is placing the United States on a high pedestal it does not deserve. While this country has been good to me in many ways, it doesn’t take long to realize I am a son of many sorts of privilege. (How many teenagers can say they got to move to another country – twice?) Ten years in America have helped me understand that this land is broken and in need of help just like any other country.

This sobering reality is highlighted by hip hop artist Lecrae, in his track ‘Welcome to America’ – a snapshot into some of the sad realities about the US. You might have caught his performance of the song on Jimmy Fallon’s nightly show last year, but if you haven’t, I’ve put the song’s music video below for you to watch. I hope you’ll give it a listen. It may not what you want to hear today, but I’d say it’s important to consider the less than ideal state of the union, today of all days, as we reminisce on what this country means for each of us.

As a new American myself, I’d like to listen to your thoughts on the song above. Also, feel free to share your personal stories on your relationship with the United States if you would like. I’ll make it a point to engage with them. Until then, have a good (and thoughtful) 4th of July.