Why “American” Doesn’t Fit my Checkbox

You grab a drink at a bar and a guy looks towards your way. He immediately walks over to ask you where you’re from. You reply with the most basic answer, “New York City.” He wants a deeper answer. You begin to wonder: Are his politics aligned with yours?, is he an extravagant prideful American? “I should just reply American.” No, I think he wants to know my nationality. What if he hates Arabs? What if he calls me an immigrant for being half Latina? I should just say I’m American, right?

Does your nationality and culture override your American citizenship? Is the place you were born, your automatic identity? With the mass media consistently focusing on identity groups such as Latino immigrants, Black Lives, Muslims, etc, the question of American born pride is constant.

So I ask myself all the time, what does my American pride consist of? My American pride is the ability to attend a university as a woman and minority. It is the feeling of being able to drive and to walk down the street in peace. It is the pride to have the world at your fingertips. It’s the ability to read novels and textbooks that elaborate on this beautiful American lifestyle.

Now the reason why I don’t say I’m American. My American pride only exists through the elimination of another culture’s pride. I think it’s important for average thinking adults to understand the context in which ones culture exists. As a half-Puerto Rican, I grew up reading Puerto Rican novels that gave an inside look at the women who were used as birth control test subjects in the Isla de Vieques, at the mere expense so white women in the United States could begin their revolution. The revolution of women in the United States doesn’t hit quite home for me since they’re still Puerto Rican women today, who experience the side effect of forced medical testing.

As a half-Palestinian, the current destructive state of Palestine is at the expense of the United States tax dollars to support military occupation in the West Bank. Although, United States overcame a war on Terror in Iraq and people celebrated a victory of American power, I could not relate as the countless bodies of Palestinian children were disposed in the air with grenades. I could not relate to the limitless amount of army guards and police officers available during Black Lives Matter protests–while the Palestinians form of protection consist of merely a slingshot and rocks.

Yes, I think it’s important to acknowledge your America citizenship. However, to me that birth certificate and Identification would not be available, if not for the expense of those who have suffered under American imperialism and destruction. I think the first step to acknowledge ones identity, is to be able to question our identity and understanding of ones moral consciousness.

I cannot say that my identity is Puerto Rican or Palestinian–I did not grow up covering my ears to the sounds of bombs in Ramallah or Gaza and I certainly did not engulf myself in Puerto Rican political protests as the economic crisis rose. What I do know is that it is an American attribute, to question and disagree with ones identity. I am American born, however, I loathe the policies that have scarred my cultures identities. Can I be both American and non-American? Is that attribute possible?

So I remain once again in a limbo state, where my mere existence is resistant to American society. Where my thoughts are automatically non-American, yet I have the most pride to work and live in this country of dreams.

I am American, but my heart lies in other borders.

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