A Diverse Perspective on the American Creed

Analysis of the American Creed from the eyes of diverse Americans, and how they involve the American Creed within their lives.

By Kevin X from Royal Oak High School in Michigan

Many have attempted to identify what exactly constitutes the American Creed, ranging from those who are native to the country to those who are foreign to it. Regardless, a clear and concise description has not been agreed upon, and likely never will be agreed upon, as identity of a country is incredibly complex to easily understand, especially one that is so diverse. Many argue about whether people should be assimilated into American culture or if they should retain their own identity. Most immigrants are partially assimilated, but most also retain much of their culture, as many immigrants and children of immigrants can testify to, myself included. Through this evidence, the question, “How do diverse Americans see the American Creed?” arises. Through the evidence that has been gathered, much of it can vouch for one central theory. Diverse Americans adopt pieces of the American Creed, which is simply American culture, that best fits them, and retain parts of their own culture that also best fits them.

One aspect of the American Creed that can’t easily be answered is if it is part of an individual’s identity, or an overarching identity for all. There are arguments that say it is strictly related to American culture, though many view it as a part of their own identity. They combine aspects of their traditional culture and American culture into what best fits them. The American Creed is a diverse one which can vastly differ from person to person, with individuals picking parts that best fit them. The idea of the diversity and how that itself is American can be seen in an interview with Taif Jany, who immigrated from Iraq to America as a young child. When asked, “Have you had a moment when you suddenly felt American?” she responded with, “...I haven’t seen the diversity that I see in the US replicated anywhere else in the world. To be a representative of America’s diversity abroad always feels very American to me.” This reinforces the idea of diversity within culture and people defining their own creed. The American Creed is one made up of many, many different values that people adopt and shape to best fit themselves, and isn’t one that overrides someone’s culture. It stays alongside it, as a way to embrace a new home but not forget the old one. Reinforcing the ideas of adopting pieces of both cultures, Moni Basu, who immigrated to America from India when she was a young child, said she “never felt fully accepted.” Basu goes on to say, “Many of us feel neither here nor there, straddling two cultures as we navigate key years of our lives.” Many immigrants feel like they are on the edge of their culture and American culture, belonging to both but not fully belonging to either. She eventually realized she belongs to both cultures, and embraces that. She states, “I strive to carry with me every day the very best of two lands. That is, after all, what makes America great.” Through these two sentences, she shows that for the individual, what makes America great place is that people are able to retain their own culture, yet at the same time identify strongly with American culture. They are able to choose what best fits their situation, and make their own creed, through the values of both of their homes. The diversity seen in America shows that no one is alone, as many go through the same things constantly, and despite all having differences, many adopt the same parts of American culture as each other, even though the amount of diversity they witness here may be higher than what they have previously seen. Even if the diversity a person holds can seemingly keep them stranded in uncharted waters, making them feel excluded from their newly adopted culture and the culture of their homeland, many people have gone through that same process, and it contributes to how they grow as people. Those feelings makes them more apt to truly accept a new, diverse culture that America offers while still remembering their roots, and allows them to appreciate the diversity they and others bring, which they may have not been accustomed to before in their homeland. Both those who initially are accepting of the diversity of the land and what it brings and those who see it as more of a disadvantage than an advantage go through the same process, eventually realizing that diversity is what caused the American Creed to form, and as a result, was adopted in bits and pieces by many of those who have immigrated to the U.S.

An article by APNORC, titled The American Identity: Points of Pride, Conflicting Views, and a Distinct Culture shows just how conflicting people’s opinions are, and how many disagree on what defines the American identity despite all living in the same place. The article states that nearly 65% of Americans surveyed believe that having a culture​ ​based around​ Christian beliefs is an important part of America, despite the country being known for its diversity, with many people following many different religions. Yet at the same time, 84% believe that the mixing of cultures and values from around the world is an important part of the American identity. These two statistics directly conflict with each other, with 65% of those surveyed saying being based around one belief system is American, and 84% believing that the mixing of cultures and values, which would come from many belief systems, is American. These statistics show that even though these people all live in America, they all have different definitions of what makes up American values. If these people all have a different idea on what makes up the American identity despite all living in America, then the aspect of the American Creed is something which is incorporated by people into their identities at their own leisure. This isn’t seen exclusively within the American identity. It is something also seen within many immigrants to the U.S. within their own cultural norms. For example, as stated in Muslim Immigrants in the United States, “A third of the women obey the injunction against wearing makeup in public and roughly the same number avoid shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex who is not related to them.” This means that two thirds of Muslim women who have immigrated to the United States, despite that being parts of their culture, have changed what they do because the American aspect of that fits them better. Due to their ability to choose what to practice, they can and will change their ways to do what they find best fits them. While many still follow their own cultural norms, a large amount have incorporated elements of American culture into their own identity, and have involved the American Creed into their own creed.

The American Creed, and the creed of any other country, is very complex, with only few agreements in what is needed to be considered a “true American” or a “true German” or etc. According to What it Takes to Truly be ‘One Of Us’, an article by Bruce Stokes, 13.9% of the U.S. population was foreign born in 2015. Immigration has only increased, so that number is likely to rise. Despite that, “More than four-in-ten (45%) believe that for a person to be considered truly American, it is very important that he or she share American customs and traditions… More than half (54%) of people with a high school education or less believe that to be truly American it is very important that one share U.S. customs and traditions. Just 33% of those with a college degree or more share this view.” As a comparison, it is also stated that, “In only five of the countries surveyed do half or more say sharing customs and traditions is very important. In Sweden (36%) and Germany (26%), roughly a quarter or more actually believe that such cultural affinity is either not very important or not important at all.” Within the United States, many believe that sharing American customs or traditions is very important in being American. However, in European countries, this is not the case. This could serve to explain why many immigrants pick and choose what they see as most important to them to fit into their creed. 

There are many disagreements in what makes the American Creed the American Creed, and when compared to what other countries think, much of what is noted in America as very important might not be important at all to many Europeans. The American Creed and the creed of other countries are ones that are adopted by individuals who reside within the country, instead of individuals being assimilated into the country’s creed. Regardless, immigrants, and all citizens of a country, are free to choose what parts of their culture to retain, and what parts of their new culture to adopt, as they aren’t completely assimilating into a new culture, are assimilating that new culture into their own identity.

Royal Oak High School

AP Lang 2019

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