The date was a subtle reminder. September 11. 9/11. That day, my classmates went home, in alphabetical order, until there were only six or seven third-graders left when my name was called. I put my things in my backpack with a thrill, thinking, as an 8-year-old would think, that a half-day at school with no homework was a good thing. Mom picked me up, and I walked into the apartment with the TV already on–an odd sight in the house of my Mother, the Queen of saving electricity. I remember going to a half-empty school the next day, because so many families kept their children close to home. We drove to Liberty Park that Sunday, a few days later, and saw columns of smoke rise over a city that so fascinated me. And I remember thinking about how beautiful the city had looked at night from the top of those towers in the cold, clear air. I vaguely recall avoiding the park and the library and other public places in the months that followed, and my mom fills in the details with the explanation that we were brown.
But today, I wore my stars and stripes. Because on a daily basis, I’m happy for the education opportunities I’m given in this country, relieved to not have to fear someone breaking into my house when I’m in it, and thankful for the thousands of soldiers who sacrificed for me to have such freedoms today. Coming from a land that bears the aftermath of apartheid stronger than we do here, I recognize that I have a lot to be grateful for. I wouldn’t have had half of what I have here if I had grown up in the 90s in South Africa. I realize that America is not perfect, that we have a long way to go with our government, economy, and atmosphere of social injustice. And I want to fight the injustices so that my nieces and nephews and children have a better place to grown up in than even I did. But in the meantime, I’m damn proud, too, of the positive things we have here. And I think it is important that, while we fight to better this and improve that, to recognize the small victories we have won along the way.