Where are you from? I mean originally?
Where are you from? This question is familiar to anyone who do not fit into a narrow representation of a Caucasian or an African American. As the strength of our nation for ages has been cherished and repeatedly attributed to its diversified demographics by our great leaders, it is becoming increasingly difficult to give a succinct answer that truly reflects our identity. I want to be privileged and simply say “Iowa” or “Maine” and have a sense of belonging and satisfaction of being part of this great nation with no additional identifiers. That reply in itself is not sufficient and will most definitely lead to another question, “I mean originally?” My husband, an accomplished Cardiologist, once quipped, “Madagascar”, when he was posed with this very question by one of his patients. This might be a genuine interrogation out of curiosity in search of ancestral roots, but is that really of any significance in this day and age of interracial revolution and globalization?
The conundrum facing many Americans on identity crisis is not just limited to interracial individuals. It profoundly extends to people of eastern origins. The challenge is primarily emotional, evoking the inner chaos and the painful process of forcing one towards self discovery. In this complicated society of conflicted values and ideologies, it is even more tormenting to cheerfully address that question because; there is not one clear answer. For a naïve aspiring youth who thrives on unconditional acceptance, this dilemma is very disturbing. The sense of abandonment that it brings is immense.
How should a second generation Indian American born in Texas and groomed in Arizona address himself? – A “Texan” to acknowledge his birth, an “Arizonian” to justify and appreciate the years of his childhood, or just an “Indian” to admit his heritage. This perplexity grows even deeper for first generation naturalized citizens who immigrated during their adolescent years. For most part these individuals got educated, joined the mainstream work force, raised a family, moved and diversified their communities that they have come across all through their adulthood. They have solely known and associated themselves with America more than their country of birth. There is no doubt that they are in an advantageous position to discern the cross cultural, political and economical differences between the nations that they directly or remotely identify with. This outlook is more appreciated than frowned upon in our quest to make the world flat with thin national borders. Unfortunately, that in itself does not lead to acceptance of their chosen identity. The probing for originality in one’s identity is not only excruciating but also annoying for reviving the inadequacies in our otherwise proud self as responsible and compassionate American citizens.
The historic election that put Mr. Barack Obama, an African American in highest office miraculously brought decisiveness to this emotionally charged conundrum. The analogy that it draws on hidden but wide inherent approval of anyone based less on physical appearances and more on garnered relationships and ethical deeds is remarkably empowering. It symbolized what it means to be originally from America with a potent implicit message of acceptance. The assurances that it puts forth minimized the impact of inquiries to merely an unsuspecting chitchat over Starbucks Coffee. The debilitating struggle in search of a surreal identity is put to rest because it is no longer pertinent.
For my part, I chose my association to Arizona where I first landed and started my life in America. I am entitled and fortunate to experience America from enchanting foothills of Arizona to amusing rolling hills of Pennsylvania, along with lush Georgia and rowdy yet adorable Texas to magnanimity of New York. To my fellow inquisitive Americans my answer is simple and consistent, “I am from Arizona originally”. Today I can confidently fly across Atlantic and Pacific oceans to claim my new found identity in the world. “I too am from America originally!” with undeniable audacity and proof.
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