I Am An American

I read where a beautiful woman, who was a ‘grandchild’ on the old Bill Cosby Show, was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and stated that she was an American and not an African-American. Oprah was not amused.

But I see that young woman’s point of view, and agree with her.  My father was born in Sweden, so I’m a first born generation American, and yet I’ve never been asked to identify myself as Swedish-American.

The basic definition is if you were born here, with your first breath, you are an American. Period. No arguments. However, if you were born elsewhere, came here and completed your immigration papers, you became, as my father did, an American. Again, with no if’s, and’s or but’s. The same as everyone else, because . . .

. . . yes, because, with the exception of American Indians, everyone one of us is a descendant of immigrants. America is a nation of immigrants. And for many reasons, it’s become not only interesting, but ‘big business’ to trace one’s lineage to find out exactly where we did come from.

For some reason, some one is making a big deal of the term African-American. The majority of Blacks have been here since before the Revolutionary War, and no one can argue that fact, for we are the ones who brought them here. They did not choose to come, but we wanted them, and Abraham Lincoln’s words of Emancipation, yes, that far back, gave them all the rights of any other citizen. American citizens.

They have fought, been wounded and died in our wars, including The Revolutionary, The Civil, and every war since.

My father was born in Sweden, came here as a 10 year old, and was never called a Swedish-American.  Chinese, Japanese, Indonesians, Mexicans, all become Americans and not any two-word label. I agree with that lovely young woman on Oprah’s program.   I don’t know her name, but we all knew her at the time of the Cosby Show, and she, on the Winfrey show, which most of us do not see, spoke these words and Oprah was angry.  At least she took umbrage.

Many black skinned Americans have lived here for more generations than the majority of us have.  Lincoln made them Americans, and now it looks as if we’re trying to make them only half-way Americans.

We aren’t blind. We can see and when we meet people, it’s no problem to recognize those beautiful Far Eastern almond eyes, the sun-tan skin of the Latinos, or the almost albino hair of Scandinavian children.  My mother said that up until I was seven or eight years old, it was impossible to see the dividing line between my hair and the white sheets of my bed. She thought I might be an albino, but Dad said, “No, just Swedish”.

Yes, most of us are quick-witted enough to know if the person we’re meeting has Scandinavian, Far Eastern, Black or Spanish features. It’s differences that make us the United States, and we’ve been proud to say to the world that we accept all and have created a huge ‘Salad Bowl’ of the best of everyone from everywhere. Anyone who had the guts and determination to get here where they could develop according to their work and dreams, and not be held back because of their ancestry. To become Americans.  Are we endeavoring to get rid of that old, old dream that has for centuries drawn people to us???

I agree with the lovely young woman, whose name I do not know, and wonder why Oprah was appalled.   She, Oprah, was born American, where she was able to make a name and fortune such as she never could have in any other nation. 

Or, is she and others, for some reason I don’t understand, striving  to continue that difference and identification, known in the past as The Color Line?  Is it to someone’s advantage, monetarily,  to not let those dated words ever  die?  Is there some group fighting to keep that attitude alive??

But it doesn’t matter, for it’s now far past time to drop all labels of what we were and concentrate on what we are and can become.  Americans, as Jefferson so boldly stated, and Lincoln emphasized, that all men (humans) are created equal, with the same rights and privileges. It’s why people of the entire world dream of coming here.   To be Americans. Not to become half-breeds wearing some superimposed two-word label.

To be President of the United States, it goes without saying, that person must be an American. Is President Obama going to be labeled as being half-American? Then we must go back to the beginning and re-label everyone of our Presidents, for each of them was a descendent of Immigrants. Just like you. And me.

4 thoughts on “I Am An American

  1. Right on! My son in law, Jay says he hates it when ask that question, and he always answers: American.
    Real or imagined offenses can become thorns that prevent our assimilation. Sons and daughters of slaves, black or white are two and may three generations removed from that era. Get over it. No one asks if help is needed to get over that, opportunity is NOW, not some legacy of times past.
    We all seem to have favorite things to complain about, Grandpa, a faithful member of the LDS Church often stated he hated polygamy, he had his reasons, I guess, but he, a self taught reader, never allowed that to be a sticking point to enjoying the company of whatever or whomever he came in contact.

  2. Agree 100% but think there is one more thing… common language – We all need to speak English. I can remember my Dad telling me that his father use to say, “Speak American”. “You are in America now.” As a result, my father knew very few Italian words. Keep writing… you are amazing.

    • Marie, you brought out an aspect of ‘being an American’ that I missed entirely. I can just hear some those words spoken by your Dad. I remember when he died and I thought. “Now, how will I know when Spring comes. Seeing him in his fields told me, that, whatever the weather seemed, if Joe was out in his fields, Spring was here”.
      . Good, good, good. Wonderful and thanks for sharing them with others. They give me the shivers. I keep going back to read and re-read the words, “You are an American”, and I thank you again, and thanks for reminding me how lop-sided my words were. Good to have you a nabor. ethel

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