In this piece I expose the ideas of identity in America and how it reflects American values.

Isn't it crazy how we were all born differently? We weren't created from an assembly line, from a bunch cut and paste robots, we came from real human beings; a product of real emotions.

Identity: the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. However, Identity isn't just your external physical features, identity is : where you live, past experiences, heritage, sexuality, your beliefs, values, communities your apart of and most certainly your emotions. The diverse groups of citizens that embody this place we call America, has exhibited the idea identity has a direct impact on one's patriotism.

A women by the name of Sarah Vowell , author of The Partly Cloudy Patriot ; has exhibited this notion in her book. Vowell comes from a big Cherokee heritage, this is the reason why she feels as if she can't be as patriotic as others. She feels conflicted on the idea of celebrating and honoring a nation that killed more than half of her ancestors, as well as other native american descendants ancestors too. She directly demonstrates the notion of grievances, because of her heritage and values it limits her from being completely patriotic. This idea brings out the argument of, does not participating in or engaging in american traditions or events make you any less american? Are grievances allowed in the idea of patriotism? What's the difference between having a grievance and disrespect? Vowell’s confliction is similar to a lot of those in America, as a nation there were a lot of significant events in our past that we aren't proud of, that is were a lot of grievances have rooted.

“There’s was once a poem by the name of “The White Man’s Burden “ written by Rudyard Kipling in 1899. The infamous poem directly talks about how white people struggle because of the constant need to help minorities. This poem is most used to describe how King Leopold The ii of Belgium, abused and forced the Congolese people into hard labor and slavery. This applies to the American creed because in America, white supremacy and white nationalism exists openly in our society. Racism or discrimination because of one’s identity can directly impact the level at which someone participates on a patriotic level. Men like like Martin Luther King Jr, Colin Kaepernick and Gandhi have practiced the behavioral protest known as nonviolent resistance while facing direct oppression. The way these individuals try to expose the issues embedded in American communities and workplaces is significant because it shows the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor, As well as the actions behind the feelings of grievances. The poem “the white man's burden” mocks the idea of having grievances, in relation to the Congolese people. To this notion, it relates back to the topic of grievances because it brings in a new perspective and introduces the idea white privilege. White privilege by definition is “The societal privilege that benefits people whom society identifies as white in some countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. “ Examples of white privilege include the following: going into a workplace/educational environments and seeing majority of people of your race, being accurately represented in media, and having positive notions and relationships with authority and police officials. Identifying and adding the topic of white privilege to the conversation of grievances and identity is very important in order to understand the many conflicts, views, and emotions centered and rooted in many american communities.

A spoken word, called “Letter to your flag” performed by by a young black man highlights these issues. It starts off “I pledge allegiance to your flag, of the United States of America, and to your republic for which it stands, one nation , under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for who?” Throughout the spoken word he directly talks about his grievances towards America and the pledge of allegiance. He speaks about police brutality, injustice in the prison system, and gun violence. “This system I was born into is billed to work against me” This is one of his most powerful lines in his performance, this single line reflects many of the reasons why people don't feel valued in America; therefore lessening their will to be patriotic. In one of his closing parts he says “My hate for this country reminds me that I’m far from patriotic, so it’s a little ironic that …..I pledge allegiance to your flag ,of the united states of america , and to your republic for which it stands, one nation , under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for who ?

In 1619, the first 19 Africans touched American soil as slaves, after they were ripped from their native villages and families. If we go even farther back, the story of how we acquired such land we call America, resides in the deaths of thousands of Indigenous native Americans. The portrayal and image of minorities in America have rooted from hundreds of years of oppression that Is engraved in American history. In perspective, if someone is doing something bad to you or may have done something bad to you, you may not be susceptible to wanting to be nice to them , to praise or honor them, or even be still be their friend ;This is how most people with grievances feel.It's not being disrespectful to not participate, as long as it's in a respectful manner. In the conversations of grievances the notion of respect get lost in translation, respect goes both ways ;even to those things/people/places you don't like.

To conclude, respectfully choosing to not participate in patriotic events or ceremonies because of personal grievances highlights one the main points embedded in american value; freedom. 

*Disclaimer* The use of the title “American Creed” was used as reference and all rights belong to it’s rightful owner(s) 

We made a short video explaining American Identity and grievances and the way it affects ones American-ness.  To watch, click here 




Royal Oak High School AP Lang 2019

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