American Dreamin’: Loving What’s Good About My Country On the Fourth of July By Celebrating Others

I’m a proud American—no one can take that away. Of thee, I sing.  Still, my country is not perfect, by a stretch. My place here, as an African American, as a woman, as a human who is fully subscribed to the American Dream but has, all-too-many times found it elusive, is fractured. At times, maddening. Melissa Harris-Perry, the host of her self-titled MSNBC show that makes me swoon every time I see it, put it best in her footnote on our July 4th Independence Day celebration:

The land on which they formed this Union was stolen. The hands with which they built this nation were enslaved. The women who birthed the citizens of the nation are second class.

But all of this is our story. Each of us benefits from the residuals of oppression and each of success harmed by the realities of inequality. This is the imperfect fabric of our nation, at times we`ve torn and stained it, and at other moments, we mend and repair it.

But it’s ours, all of it. The imperialism, the genocide, the slavery, also the liberation and the hope and the deeply American belief that our best days still lie ahead of us.

Yes—yes they do. And I’m heartened by this when I look in the faces of my children. I see the opportunity. I feel the hope. I embrace the promise. And I stare down the challenges, for their sake. For the sake of us all. Our babies are the promise. The future of this country. America.

I wish each of you a Happy Fourth of July! Enjoy the fireworks and the barbecued grub. And, if you are so moved, take a look at this video below, which I saw earlier today on CBS This Morning. It’s a montage of a guy named Matt, who took it upon himself to travel all around the world, taping himself dancing with people in different countries in a series he calls, simply, “Where In the Hell Is Matt?” I admit: I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this video; it brought tears to my eyes. Matt was dancing with children in Jordan and men in Yemen and babies all across Africa—women in India and Korea and people in Scotland and New York City’s Central Park and Atlanta, GA. Everyone showed off dances specific to their countries, with the affable Matt in the background, looking like a goofy American just around to make folk happy—to induce the most beautiful traits of any human: laughter and joy. This video—Matt’s journey—is proof positive that, despite the way people all around the world celebrate their customs, their gods, their ways of life, on the most basic of level, we are all human. One. And that is worthy of celebration, even as we raise our flags high. American dreamin’.



1. Remember Our America
2. Burning Qur’ans, Zealots, and A Lesson On Tolerance: The Best Way to Honor the Victims of September 11th 
3. Why White Parents Should Teach Their Children About Race
4. Traveling In Color: Finding Diversity and Opening Minds on a Paris Vacation with Kids

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

One Comment

  1. I’m sorry, but it is so hard to be proud. Knowing what got the vast majority of us here, what it took to build this land and what the current situation is for those surviving here now. For the vast amt. of the people here in this country are poor or barely making it and the wars it has stirred up worldwide and continue to stir up. It is hard to be proud.

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