America. What does it mean to be american? I hate that question. The question expects a straight answer, a “correct answer”, but is there one? “american” that word to me is ambiguous, subjective because every “american” has their own story to tell nobody’s story is parallel.
Does being american denounce personal background, even identity? America is like water everything is enclosed into one normality when an unfamiliar object penetrates the surface it breaks a barrier. An unspoken barrier, equality.
Inequality fails to deteriorate even with America gradually becoming more and more diverse. Over the years, I’ve heard variations of the same statement, “ The olden days were better...when people knew their place”. In layman’s terms: America was better when inequality of certain citizens was normalized. People fail to realize that people do not migrate to America to possess a mere title but to gain what they could not in their native country. In those terms “americans” are a bit superficial.
Slavery, this grisly genocide is often a toxic topic of discussion which is why it’s often avoided. When people do discuss slavery they make one common statement as if in justification “slavery originated in Africa.” That statement is not necessarily true nor false, in terms of African culture, their “slavery” was quite frankly men and women performing maid/butler jobs, even labor jobs, in exchange for a money, or maybe even a valuable. Foreign trade is what encouraged overseas slave trade thus thriving what we know today as slavery. However, slaves were not necessarily forced on ships they were manipulated into thinking the awful slavery they’d later be subjected to equated to African “slavery”, sadly that was not the case.
African slaves, some, wouldn’t have voluntarily entered the ship had they known “the land of opportunities” did not apply to them, they wouldn’t have unintentionally sacrificed their lives to seek a better one.
Systematic racism is the root of oppression and this is the most prominent form exercised today.
It’s ironic how America was founded on the labor work of foreigners yet in modern America “americans” hold a disdain for them as if they, or their ancestors for that matter, were in the population of mistreated, oppressed “citizens”. Imagine entering a different land not knowing any customs, the native language, and on top of that being detested. Many immigrants feel the need to conform to society’s standards in order to be “accepted” which is awful, especially for adolescents.
I conducted a brief interview, individually, with two people of opposing views. Each person answered the same questions with a slightly different phrasing. Interviewee 1:
Q: Do you think the pressure of identifying as american encourages separatism?
A: I [personally] don’t like identifying as american because [my] people were stolen and everything they had was stripped away from them.
Q: Do you think people in America who hold individual identities are treated unequally? Why? Or why not? What issues do you think they face?
A: It depends on the community of discussion. If we’re discussing the black community then yes. We’ve been oppressed since slavery. Horrors of slavery are still in effect of the black community today. Struggles are still faced such as: Police brutality, systematic oppression, as well as racial inequality.
Q: Is being American an identity for you? Why? Or why not?
A: First of all America was literally built off the backs of genocide, oppression, murder, colonization, war, white supremacy, white privilege, and enslaved Africans. I will never represent this country considering what it did to my history, culture, and people. Not to mention the same issues still occur today. As well as what it has done to other systematically oppressed groups. Nothing has changed and history repeats itself. In short, America has and will always be trash.
An opposing view, Interviewee 2:
Q: Do you think identifying as american influences separatism? Does it eliminate inequality?
A: I think being american allows us to exercise [our] rights: Having the right to peacefully assemble, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms. A struggle that is gradually becoming larger is freedom is becoming slightly stricter but our big government helps with that.
Q: Do you think people who don’t identify as american are treated fairly, equally? Why? Or why not?
A: Yes, everyone is equal [more or less]...there are ignorant people but society wise people are treated equally.
Q: What is your opinion of America as a whole? Do you think immigration individually raises issues?
A: No, everyone regardless of where they are from cause issues in one way or another. Individually, they [themselves] aren’t an issue.
The two interviewees surprised me with how correlating their ideas tended to be. Each subject supported opposite parties, interview 1: Democrat. Interview 2. Republican. When conducting the interviews admittedly I had assumptions but after completing them it's safe to say that i've been educated as well. There is no specific definition for being “american”. The party one supports doesn't define who they are as a person, maybe some, this applies to racial stereotypes as well. Being a citizen of a nation that allows diversity is bound to have various cultures, therefore, eliminating the idea of a title dominating one’s identity. In reality no nation will ever be "perfect" but the least a country can enforce is equality for all. The unjustified animosity against communities should be conquered or else history will repeat itself.