A quality of America that stands out from other countries, is the diversity among the citizens. Our country is filled with people of different races, religions, beliefs, education levels, and more. No two people have the same story of origins and how they came to be where they are. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the U.S in the past 50 years. The country's racial profile will be vastly different, and although people who are caucasian will remain the single largest racial group in the the US, they will no longer be a majority by 2055. Growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations is predicted to almost triple over the next 40 years. By 2055, the breakdown is estimated to be 48% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 14% Asian, and 13% African American.
Today, I understand America as a nation that celebrates differences, where we are not just one homogenous race. America is a place where anyone is supposed to be able to come, work hard, and succeed. In America, you can choose how you identify yourself and equality is a priority. Easier said than done, but that's the basis of my beliefs. What troubles me most, and what challenges my beliefs of America as a great, accepting country, is the close-mindedness and lack of understanding and compassion of some Americans. Frequently, close-mindedness goes hand and hand with a lack of education and exposure that results in racism, inequalities, and both conscious and unconscious bias. Beginning with the 2012 shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, the nation reopened an intense debate on the continued horror of institutional racism evidenced by a string of high-profile deaths of black men, women, boys and girls at the hands of law enforcement. Also, since the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, security concerns have understandably increased, but so too has racial profiling and discrimination. In the early aftermath of the attacks, some Americans that were understandably outraged and horrified attacked members of the Sikh community where at least one was killed, because they resembled certain types of Muslims, with beards and turbans. Various people of Middle East or South Asian origin have faced controversial detentions or questionings by officials at American airports. These are just some examples of our country exhibiting racial profiling issues and other forms of bias.
My story has two sides. It is a story that includes my biological heritage of Russia and my adopted home country of America where I have grown up, formed deep personal relationships and developed a strong sense pride and patriotism. I was born in Engels, Russia where I spent the first year of my life in an orphanage until I was adopted by my parents and brought back to America with full citizenship. I have a loving family and a life where opportunities are abundant. I grew up playing soccer, learned the clarinet, and was always involved in art. I don’t have a relationship with my birth parents, so I don't have any knowledge of where they or my grandparents originated. But, out of curiosity, I did take an ancestry DNA test that showed that I am East Asian, primarily Mongolian. Technically, I could be a descendant of Genghis Khan.
When I was younger and in elementary school, I couldn't comprehend that I had a different background or story than my peers. I didn't see myself as “Asian”, I saw myself as a regular American kid. I had no interest in and was oblivious to my cultural identity, or lack of, despite attempts by my parents to expose my sister and I to Russian culture by taking us to Russian language classes. Now that I am older, I can see that I don’t identify with my Russian heritage at all. I have been submerged into the American culture, “Americanized”, all my life. It hit me in middle school, a time when we are more self-conscious and observant, that I have a different story. I have a biracial family, I'm a minority and I am from another country. I frequently found myself unable to relate to my friends and their look alike families. I found it confusing and angering to be viewed as a “foreigner” with hints of prejudices, despite the fact that I've lived in America the majority of my life. We often feel pressured to hide our differences. Who wants to stand out from the ordinary? But, the great thing about our society today is people no longer want to be ordinary. We want to stand out and be proud of our differences. In hindsight, this identity struggle I began to form in middle school, and continue to carry with me today, was when the development of my global understanding and views on America started to form. It’s like I look at the world through unique lens. My viewpoint on family may differ from others. Family to me is based on love not blood, despite our physical differences. This influences and goes hand and hand with my view on acceptance of diversity in America.
I hope that sharing my story and version of American creed will shed light on how different our backgrounds can be, sometimes with no choice in the matter, but that it is our diversity that strengthens America. My American creed does not define me, nor does it define you. But what is has done is shape who we were today. It has sculpted our views on the world, day to day decisions, passions, and more. America is my home and America should be free to be called home by anyone else. Our diversity should be embraced and celebrated rather than discarded. If we channeled our negativity towards acceptance and open-mindness, our nation could unify and overcome adversity.