I have heard America described as a melting pot but I feel a more apt description is one that I heard from one of my college professors where he described America as a salad bowl. I feel that this is perhaps one of the most appropriate descriptions of who we are as a nation, because in a salad each ingredient maintains the flavor, truth and uniqueness of its own identity while still working extremely well together to produce a wonderful, tasty product.
That is my connotation of community as well. Community is one of those unique English words which exists as a single entity while in tandem is composed of multiple voices and races. The more diverse expression a community has the stronger that community is.
The question that inevitably arises from the number of European visitors which we get on a regular basis is why don’t Southerners discuss the topic of slavery and does racism still exist in this nation. The openness with which they ask this question has led me to the realization that as a nation we still have so much healing to undergo. The wounds of slavery are still fresh and run deep so as a result the topic of race can be one of those hot button issues which causes everyone to get a little tense when the topic is brought up. Because of the level of tension that the topic elicits slavery has become taboo in our culture.
However, it is the roots and ancestry of African American people. It is our heritage and contributes to who we are. If I have a conversation with older African Americans who had a more direct involvement with slavery the shame and degradation is palpable in the conversation. They seem ashamed that they had to be associated with the institution however, generations removed, as a person who has been left that legacy as a part of my own heritage I consider it an extreme badge of honor to be an heir of a people who had such strength and courage.
I am proud of the legacy which I inherited from such strong people of tremendous courage who were shaped by their own American story and yet remained unbroken.
As the heirs of those who have gone before us we are charged with the responsibility to honor their memory and to speak for those who had no voice. We must become the physical representation of a their American legacy in order to weave our story into the fabric of this nation.