According to Judith Shklar in her work, “American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion”, there are two main components of being a full, capable citizen in America, those being voting and earning. Each person must have the right and be legitimately capable to both vote in elections (and have their vote counted) and earn a living, productive wage. According to Shklar, if a person has access to these two things, they are essentially granted the full, real citizenship that America has to offer. However, without one or both of these things, a person who has technically been granted citizenship of the United States, really doesn’t have “full” citizenship. Papers and official titles are nothing if they do not come with the right to vote and to earn.
Unfortunately, throughout history, it has been seen that these two things are not enough for some Americans, and so comes the idea of a third necessary ingredient for American citizenship. What this third thing might be, I have no definition for. In fact, the thing itself is completely intangible, and for that reason the best word I have found to describe this thing is “Being”. Being cannot be earned, you simply are, or you are not. What I mean by this, is that through America’s past, we have been witness to a number of American minorities who have both the right to vote and earn, somehow still be stripped of their rights as American citizens. These groups were, until suddenly they were not. I’ll give a prime example:
February 1942 – Japanese Internment Camps: In 1942 President Roosevelt signed an executive order that called for all West Coast dwelling Japanese Americans be relocated from their coastal homes into Internment camps closer to the central United States. Over 127,000 United States legal citizens were forced to abandon homes, businesses, assets, and anything else they could not fit in a suitcase. These citizens had the right to vote and they had the right to earn, many of them being business owners, but somehow, that was not enough to guarantee that their rights as an American were honored. It is estimated that two-thirds of all Japanese Americans that were moved to the camps were native born, which means the concept of “Being” is more selective than just being born and raised within American borders.
Furthermore, while the Japanese made up the vast majority of those who were stripped of freedoms during WWII, many German and Italian-Americans were detained by the Department of Justice through an “Alien Enemy Control Unit”. Similar to the Japanese, a majority of the detained citizens were not immigrants, simply first generation families full of native born citizens. Not only does this solidify that being born in America is not enough to qualify for “Being”, but it proves that being white is not always enough either.
A second example, brought to my attention by Professor Edward E. Curtis IV of Indiana University, is the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in the year 2011. Anwar was an American citizen, full legal right to vote and earn, but because he was suspected of being an al-Quida propagandist and active supporter, he suddenly lacked the “Being” aspect of his citizenship. Specifically, his right to trial and the fundamental idea of “innocent until proven guilty” were both stripped from Anwar when he was killed by drone fire. Anwar never faced a judge or jury to decide his innocence or guilt in the act of terrorism, and while I in no way can pick a side due to a sheer lack of knowledge on the history and evidence, I am not here to argue that. Instead, the point being made is that Americans, as guaranteed by the Sixth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, are to be granted “the right to a speedy and public trial”.
So, where does “voting and earning” end and where does “being” pick up? For that, I have no answer. I still cannot provide you a definition for what being even is, what it means, how someone can “be” while others cannot. In summation of this post, all I can say is that it is clear that voting and earning are not all it takes to be guaranteed American Citizenship, and as a country, America has proven that to its people.