The Divided States of America: When Has the United States Ever Been United?

Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, I have heard people blame the Black Lives Matter movement for dividing the nation.

From their estimation, prior to 2020 America had been this utopian country where everyone agreed on everything and everyone got along.

But from my estimation, America has been divided since day one from racial divisions to political divisions to geographic divisions.

America was built on revolution and protests.

From the America Revolution to the Civil War, America like many other countries has always used violence to settle differences and disputes.

Politically, America has always been divided by political differences.

From political parties to political ideologies, American civilians and American leaders rarely ever see eye to eye on anything, basically.

When American sailors would constantly get kidnapped and held for ransom by pirates from countries like Tripoli in the 1700s, America was divided about how to handle the situation.

Some leaders wanted to simply pay the ransom that Tripoli pirates, captors and rulers wanted, while leaders like future President Thomas Jefferson saw naval strength and war as the only way that a fledgling country would earn respect and true independence.

Jefferson’s ideas prevailed, building up the country’s navy and setting America on its course to becoming a true world superpower.

During the 1800s, the issue of slavery had become such a divisive issue that several Southern states left the United States of America to form their own treasonous nation, the Confederate States of America.

The country became so divided that it led to the Civil War.

Family members from the Union fought family members from the Confederacy.

Close friends from the Confederacy fought close friends from the Union.

Many deaths later, the United States of America would “unite” again, but in name only.

Honestly, the issue of race has always divided this country.

So I ask those who believe we are truly united, when were we ever united?

Was America united when my ancestors endured slavery from 1619 to 1865?

Was America united when White residents of Tulsa, Okla. destroyed Black Wall Street?

Was America united when African-Americans faced death sentences for simply trying to vote?

Was America united when thousands of African-Americans hanged from trees, the victims of brutal lynchings in this country?

Was America united when African-American soldiers returned from World War II only to die at home because some racists did not like to see a Black face in an American military uniform?

Was America united when African-Americans were lynched every time former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson knocked out a White adversary?

But America just does not suffer from racial discord and divisions based on skin color.

How is America united when all I hear on social media are derogatory statements made against liberals and conservatives alike?

In America, a person is an enemy or an idiot if they simply have a different political view from you.

Many Americans tune out politicians simply because of the political party they belong to, no matter how logical or brilliant their ideas or policies are.

Likewise, many Americans praise a politician’s ideas and policies no matter how asinine or ignorant they sound because they belong to the same political party that they do.

Additionally, America has become so divided based on religion that a person is seen as a threat simply because someone else that shares the same religious beliefs did something demonic.

Furthermore, America’s divisions are not always limited to serious issues as race, politics or religion.

In 2015, I attended a Houston Texans versus Cincinnati Bengals Monday Night Football game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. 

Throughout the day leading to that evening’s game, the people of Cincinnati treated me like a king returning to his homeland to reclaim his throne.

I wore my Arian Foster hoodie so the entire downtown Cincinnati area knew who my team was.

I felt at home until…

Former Houston Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught a game winning touchdown pass from former backup quarterback T.J. Yates in the corner of the end zone.

After the game-winning touchdown, I thought I would have to fight to get out of Paul Brown Stadium because the fans immediately turned on me, wanting to fight because their team is habitually terrible.

Last year, when my “cheating” Houston Astros continued our annual ritual of knocking the “cheating” New York Yankees out of the playoffs, Astros fans at Yankee Stadium got assaulted regularly.

Some Astros fans got hit with beer bottles while they used the urinals in the restroom.

College and professional sports fans have gotten killed for cheering for the wrong team at the wrong stadium.

Some professional athletes did not even let their families visit Oakland because Raiders fans are notoriously ignorant. 

So if Americans cannot even unite around the entertainment of sports, have we ever truly been the UNITED States of America?

In my lifetime, the only times I have seen Americans truly united are in the aftermath of a catastrophic tragedies like the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

So if America ever wanted to live up to its name of United States, maybe it took the disasters of systemic racism and police brutality being brought into our living rooms to bring that unity about.

I cannot speak for all of Black America, but as an African-American I have no need for superficial unity.

If unity means continuing to maintain systemic racism, police brutality and White supremacy just to make some White Americans comfortable, count me out.

I want Americans to be comfortable and united too.

But that comfort and fake unity will not come at the expense of my comfort or the comfort of my community.

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