I believe that there will never be a nationality called American.
In eighth grade, I got into a huge argument with a classmate. Tempers ran high and we were both shouting unnecessary insults. Suddenly he fired out, “Shut up, China Girl. Go back to your homeland.” I was more puzzled than angry. I wanted to cry out, “But this is my homeland!”
Now, years later, I realize that although I love America as the country that I live in, it is not my homeland. My homeland lies in my origins, in China. This is a choice that I have never forcefully made but America’s society has brought me up to think that my origins is what I am defined by. So when I am asked about my nationality, my immediate response is ‘Chinese.’ But I am wrong. I am not a product of China and I’m pretty sure I was not made in China either. I am American manufactured, American bred, American created.
Race, gender, political parties, economical status, religion and even taste in clothing and music divide us. America is still young and has very little to grab onto for means of a basis for nationality. So we stick to our own kind like animals in a dense jungle. We define ourselves by the very differences that do not allow unity of all the American people. I am a woman. I am a Californian. I am Chinese.
Every standardized test I have taken asks me the same question, ‘what is your nationality?’ I dutifully fill in the bubble next to Asian American. But wouldn’t a more fitting question be, ‘what is your origin?’
America is one huge melting pot of ideas, beliefs and cultures. We are separated by our unwillingness to conform to another culture, the new American culture; we grapple and try to keep our ties to our origins.
The people who claim they are American are usually people who eat burgers and hot dogs and love baseball because that is the stereotype of what an American is. However, being American is having tried Indian curry, Mexican chilies, New Orleans gumbo, and McDonald’s. Being American is trying everything with an open mind.
But I believe that we are scared to realize that being American is being uniquely and individually different. The American culture is a fusion of every culture. America has taken the best of each category and mixed it all into ready to be baked cookie dough. All we need to do is let the cookies bake and take shape.
We are scared that by taking on the American nationality, we will lose sight of who we are as immigrants or children of immigrants. We do not realize that being American is retaining all our own culture and being part of a new identity.
As long as America remains the land of opportunities, new cultures will dive in the mixture and add their own ingredients. The fusion is ever changing and we, creatures of habit, do not embrace this heartily and instead retreat to the safe circles of what we know can temporarily serve as nationality.
We tend to forget that we are in America for a reason; we believe in this country. Whether it may be economical gain or the opportunity to experience freedom of speech, we all have unconsciously tethered ourselves to this land just by continuing to choose to live here.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.