It seems pointless to say, but the United States was never a home for Black people. You don't need to hear much about the history of this country to realize that.
From slavery and the Civil War, to segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, and now police brutality and the prison-to-school pipeline, the lives of Black people have always been at risk in this country.
I like many before me have to ask: when is it time to leave the home of the free?
A country, a national identity, is much more than its borders. It's a combination of its peoples, of its ideas and its actions. In the United States, the people are divided. Some of us merely want to live free like their peers, while others would lynch someone just for pleasure.
The ideas of this country are centered around harming others in the name of progress, such as the theft of land from Native Americans or justifying slavery because of economic growth. The actions of the United States include pointless wars, forcing citizens into internment camps and even killing its own citizens.
This country is not just the government making laws, but also the widespread values its citizens harbor. They inform and influence each other, and they always agreed that Blackness was worth less.
It's become obvious, over the span of over 200 years that Black lives are not valued here. In the times of slavery it was clearly more brazen and obviously cruel. It shouldn't need to be said, but no human being should be in chains.
Still, slavery was so paramount to enough people that war broke out over it, and part of the country seceeded to make a country where slavery was legal. Even after rejoining the union, states wouldn't let Black people live free, and the country made them segregate from white folk. This country looked the other way when Black men and women were lynched from the trees, and regularly used any excuse, even fabricated lies, to murder Black people they deemed criminal. It threatened Black leaders and injured protesters demanding equal treatment.
I can't fathom the naivete a person must have to see this history and insist that we have totally solved these issues and the country's problems with race are over.
So why stay here?
I'm not the first person to think of leaving. Plenty of smarter and more educated Black philosophers, writers and artists made their peace and left. James Baldwin and Richard Wright, two of the most respected Black authors, moved to France when fairly young. Wright had enough of the United States by the 1946 and Baldwin by the 1948. Famous movie star and activist Josephine Baker and the singer turned activist Nina Simone both did the same, in the 1925 and 1970s respectively.
These people knew much more than I ever could about the atrocities in this country. Across all of American history, people have left. Even now, more and more people my age are emigrating to find a better place to live. Why do I hesitate?
Well, it feels like an injustice to leave.
Even though people have been repeating the adage "If you don't like it here, then leave," it still feels wrong. I have no loyalty to this country, but I have loyalty to those who fought and died for my right to even write this down. They couldn't have known where I would end up, but they were willing to face the worst horrors of this country to ensure I could be more free than they were.
But that wasn’t enough. Their deaths, injuries, servitude and all of their sacrifices weren't enough to make this country a home.
It's an unfair situation — it's not that they didn't do enough, but rather that this country is too powerful an enemy.
I can't and don't blame my cultural ancestors for doing their absolute best, for putting their lives on the line, but this country is still not a home for Black people. It may be hard to find a home anywhere on this planet, but if it does exist, it's not in the United States of America.