More and more, organizations are realizing that in order to be successful and recruit and retain the best employees, they must value the diversity of their employees and the clients they serve. The Army Reserve’s approximately 200,000 citizen-soldiers are a highly skilled, patriotic cross-section of our nation’s multicultural melting pot.
TR: Is there anything in American law, policy or culture today that would be a justifiable basis for African Americans to feel unpatriotic?
MA: I do not feel qualified to address law and policy but do have some personal thoughts on the aspect of culture. I personally think we have countless reasons why African Americans actually have many reasons to feel patriotic. The United States offers opportunities and an environment that encourages and rewards our citizens who strive for an education, work hard and contribute to our communities. The qualities I have described are an integral part of the fabric of African-American families and were instilled in me by my parents and grandparents.
Our country, and our military, have led the way in integration; otherwise, we would not have had leaders like Secretary Colin Powell, who rose to the most senior position in our Armed Forces. Insofar as my own experience is concerned, the majority of my military mentors have not been African American or female. They ultimately cared more about my character and abilities than my race or gender.
TR: What’s missing from the conversation about African Americans and patriotism?
MA: We need to focus the conversation on how much value we bring to the table in terms of our cultural and life experiences. No organization or country can grow or prosper if it lacks a diverse group of individuals who work together to contribute to overall success. History teaches us that civilizations, governments and cultures that are inflexible, intolerant or fail to adapt and change are not just stagnant; sometimes they even cease to exist.
TR: What’s the best thing about being American?
MA: There are actually several things: the freedom we enjoy to travel, to live where we wish, to worship without fear, to pursue our dreams whatever they might be; and, if we are unhappy with some aspect of our government, the ability to express our opinion by exercising our right to vote.
TR: If you could change just one thing about America, what would it be?
MA: I wish more people would view public service as the honor and privilege that I do. Those who serve as civil servants or members of our military are not doing it to get rich or because we could not do something else. Those I know do it because they care, period.
Hillary Crosley is the New York bureau chief at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.