Sylvia Thompson
The unusual making of a patriot
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By Sylvia Thompson
January 10, 2024

I am a child of the American South—Texas, to be exact. That in itself has done much to shape me.

In my perception of myself, I am first a member of Almighty God’s human creation. I am next American, and beyond that a woman and an ethnic black, in that order. Being female and black are givens. I had nothing to do with it, and those characteristics should afford me no special status.

Being American, however, is of special status to me because it is my choice, a choice that my earliest ancestors were not allowed. It is also a privilege for which I will be eternally grateful.

Growing up in Texas in 40s and 50s America under legal segregation, I lived among all levels of the black experience. In addition to the assorted criminal types, forerunners of today’s inner-city lawless, were black professionals. We all inhabited the same neighborhoods then. My lower-income parents with only high school educations lived among financially established, college-trained black people.

My family doctor, whose children were my high-school friends; the hospital where my mother delivered my younger siblings; my dentist, a high school friend of my mother’s; my high school principal, administrators, and teachers; and pretty much everything else was black and black owned. The presence of these professionals among us children gave us role models for what could be. They ensured that my generation of young blacks were not inclined to consider ourselves victims.

During that time, legal restrictions were placed upon us from outside. Today the legal restrictions are gone, yet limits continue to be imposed from within—from within black communities and from within black individuals; they restrict themselves. They prefer a status of “victim.”

Playing victim always stifles progress and growth, and I grasped that reality very early on. In fact, my generation of black children were informed that throughout life there would be hurdles, some of them owing to our race. All the more reason that we were to overcome them. I took that message to heart.

The unspoken directive from my parents’ generation (that Depression Era and World War II “greatest” generation) was something to the effect that the bird cage door has been thrown open, but nobody is obligated to reach in and pull you out so that you can fly. That’s your job. In other words, nobody owes you anything, but this is America and you can achieve to the limits of your ability. Given that directive, many blacks of my generation took flight and soared, never looking back on how it was.

Not adopting a victim attitude can do wonders for the psyche and my growing up in Texas did even more.

There was a pride in the atmosphere that enveloped all of us Texans whatever our race. A pride not only in America but even more so in the State, itself. We were bigger and better than all the rest. After all, no state except Texas had been its own republic. How’s that for promoting a positive, although “full-of-ourselves” attitude? That spirit captured my being. My sense of self was so inextricably tied to my state of birth that when in 1959 Alaska entered the union replacing us as the largest state, I literally cried. I was all of 12 years old.

Another saving grace for my generation of American children, despite racial ethnicity, was a well-rounded teaching of history. In the segregated schools, I received plenty of it and it was an America-praising history, about which I loved to read. Sure it stressed the positives and went softer on the negatives, but that’s what a nation’s history should do, stress what is good and in doing so give its citizens incentive to correct what is not. Nobody can truthfully say that is not exactly what Americans, on the whole, have done throughout our history—work to correct the wrongs.

Entering young adulthood in the 1960s was also a positive in my development. By the time the rioting and protests came along, I was already an outspoken independent thinker and rooted in a love of country, although I did not quite fully comprehend the sentiment at the time. I was not at all swept up by the mood that those who came before us were fools and we, the twenty-somethings, were all-wise.

It took a few more years of learning and living real life to come to the conclusion that America is unique and the best hope for humankind on the globe. Traveling outside the country bolstered that conclusion. I’ve been to England, China, Israel, and West Africa, and although each experience was broadening, I was oh so grateful to come home.

I wish more Americans could leave the country to see what the world has to offer. I think most would return with a greater appreciation for what we have, especially black Americans. Blacks may fantasize about a Mother Country—Africa—but experiencing its vast differences in culture and the abject poverty under black leaders, many of whom are themselves quite wealthy, will speak volumes to any willing to hear.

It was just my luck that in each of these places, I became physically ill with an assortment of conditions during each trip, even landing in the local hospital in Guilin City, China, on an IV drip. Interestingly, I was assigned to the “foreigners ward”; my skin tone was irrelevant but being American was quite relevant. This was in 1997, shortly before China regained control of Hong Kong, then a British Crown Colony, and spirits were high. Foreigners were, as always, suspect.

Interestingly, Africa seemed more foreign than China. From somewhere on the African continent my ancestors sprang, but I fully grasped during my visit that I am not African, nor am I African American. I am simply, uniquely American.

Nothing on the planet holds a candle to America as it was founded and how it has progressed over the centuries. Why else would so many want to come here? This nation was God’s gift to humankind. That we have drifted off course in the past several decades does not alter that fact one iota. And given the spirit of those of us remaining from earlier generations, who’s to say that we will not get back on track in due time? I think, Almighty God willing, we will indeed do just that.

© Sylvia Thompson

 

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Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson is a black conservative writer whose aim is to counter the liberal spin on issues pertaining to race and culture... (more)

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