Over the weekend, between volleyball games, I watched “Amend: The Fight for America” in my hotel room. This six-part documentary explores the 14th Amendment, and the fight many Americans had to undertake to be included in the amendment.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States of America and grants them equal protection under the law.
Will Smith is the host, and he takes us through several stages of the fight to be a citizen as well as to receive equal protection. The first three episodes deal with descendants of slaves calling for citizenship from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement. The series then moves to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and immigration. Although only six episodes, it covers a lot. I learned a lot.
One of the first things said in the documentary is most Americans know little about the 14th Amendment, which is ironic because it is the one that gives us all these rights we’re always talking about.
After watching “13th,” a documentary by Ava DuVernay that aired on Netflix a few years ago, I was all in for this new documentary. Plus, having Will Smith as host and several other actors I like participate didn’t hurt either.
What stood out to me about this documentary is something I already knew but it cemented it. America was made for white men. Sure, we say bring me your huddled masses, we’re a melting pot and a nation of immigrants, but the ideal and the reality are disconnected.
So many groups of Americans have been fighting to be full Americans pretty much since this country was founded. I was reminded how tenuous our rights are when white Americans don’t want you to have any. The idea of othering isn’t new. Not only have Black Americans been othered but so have so many who choose to come to this country for a better life. The documentary focused largely on Chinese immigrants and Mexican immigrants. I never heard of Harlon Carter and Operation Wetback until I watched the documentary. Carter is responsible for the modern-day NRA. As a teen he allegedly killed a Mexican teen and got off on a technicality. He later went to work for the U.S. Border Patrol before becoming president of the NRA.
I wasn’t surprised that the hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed today is the same rhetoric spewed in the past. If America is nothing else, it’s consistent about racism and the inability to learn from the past.
I think my biggest takeaway, though, was this idea that Black people are always asked to wait. Wait for freedom. Wait for equality. Wait for reparations. Wait to be fully included as citizens. It will come one day as long as we wait. We will be justly rewarded for our patience. I think this stood out to me because I recently had a conversation with someone about how much change has occurred since the 1960s. I agreed the ‘60s weren’t that long ago, and there have been improvements. But I believe we’ve been conditioned to think of slow as fast. We’ve been conditioned to think the rights we should have at birth have to be slowly doled out to us — and we should be grateful for what we’ve been given.
Not only are we expected to wait, we’re also expected to always be grateful for being here. What’s unsaid is we don’t belong here, America isn’t ours — unless we kowtow to white supremacy. If you’ve read my words in this space for any amount of time, you know I’m not doing that.
Black Americans shouldn’t have to march, protest or demonstrate because they feel their lives don’t matter. In fact, no group of Americans should have to do that. No one in America should have to talk about the disparities faced because of systemic racism. No one in America should be fearful of death at the hands of law enforcement for no reason. You can only wait for so long before your patience runs out. I think Black America’s patience is running out, like the sand in an hourglass.