Written by Jolene Avila
The United States of America is a nation of immigrants from all over the world. While this nation started from European settlers, these are equivalent to today’s immigrants that vary from Muslim to Mexican to African. Many of these immigrants are forced to displace themselves from their home countries and must learn to adapt to new surroundings. Some immigrants retain a sense of pride and loyalty to their heritage and we tend to call them hyphenated citizens. Hyphenated Americans, to be specific, are very diverse. For example there are Mexican-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and the list goes on and on.
While although many immigrants find success from assimilating to the American culture, this however does not mean you must disregard your old values for “superior” American ones. Almost a fifth of the U.S. population identifies as non-white and this number is growing. In the next 20 years or so, the United States is set to become one of the first post-industrial countries where racial and ethnic minorities will be the majority of the population. A predominantly white America will be a thing of the past. This shows that immigrants do not have to put their past aside to be truly “American.” While some people may have the idea that, “If I wanted to be Japanese, I would have stayed in Japan” or wherever they may be from, this is not the way to think. At the end of the day, you cannot pick and choose your heritage or where your family came from. You are not either American or Japanese. It is possible to be both. If you are the outcome of immigrant parents but born in the U.S., you are American. If people ask you where you’re from, you should tell them “here.” You should never be categorized by either “American” or “Immigrant” because you can be both and proudly share that. In “What Does It Mean to be an American?” by Michael Walzer he argues for ethnic-Americans in the case that they can live a whichever life as they choose, on either side of the hyphen. His biggest point being that pushing for a radical program of Americanization would really be un-American.
Overall, a hyphenated identity does not make you an outsider of any sort, but proves that you are true to yourself and your heritage. It is not un-American nor an identity crisis. Anyone can be an American, an Englishman, or an Aussie, but in the end, these nationalities are all social constructs. No one should be forced to throw away their identities because others have disavowed their own. If you are an immigrant but decide to be identified as only American, that is okay too. It is just important to acknowledge and support those who do wish to be hyphenated Americans.