What Makes YOU 'American'?

What Makes YOU 'American'?

Immigrants should not have to prove that they are American.

The answer seems obvious enough; if you were born here or you live here, you qualify. And yet, the answer is constantly up for debate.

Directors Katharine Round and Ben Steele released a short film via The Guardian, centered around the city of Dearborn, Michigan. They provide five drastically different stories of life in the city, each story attempting to define American identity. Dearborn is particularly intriguing in how it grapples with this; it is home to the largest Arab American population and the largest mosque in the states. In addition, the impoverished population is overwhelmingly white.

Unsurprisingly, the documentary begins shortly after Trump’s presidency began; the contrast between the five individuals lies primarily in how the presidency affects them. For women like Sarah and Suehaila, feeling unaccepted by a community is almost commonplace. As the child of immigrants, Sarah remarks the sense of appreciation for America that the immigrant experience instills. Her parents left war in Lebanon to pursue a better life, and given that she has just graduated law school, it is evident that that pursuit was successful. She claims her American identity proudly; per the aforementioned definition, she was born here and feels that origin should not affect one’s right to that claim. Nevertheless, she notes that Muslims now experience an oppression of the mind here, as they are not allowed to freely be themselves.

As a child of immigrants myself, it is difficult to watch her story downplayed and invalidated by other voices in the documentary. They 'otherize' those who are Muslim, and admittedly see them as a potential threat. Conservative citizens like Bob Dutko are vehement in their disagreement with Islam, and describe violence as inherent in the religion. Another citizen, Rob, echoes the claim that undeserving people overseas are employed over those living an “American life.” He claims that discrimination is exercised towards him for his allegiance to Trump and that he wants the country to exist as it was “designed to be.”

His claim of an America “designed to be” a particular way is not too far-fetched. History demonstrates the systematization of white privilege. Whether in our incarceration rates, salary margins, or employment opportunities, there is constant reassurance that white lives are of greater value. For Dutko and Rob, the presidency has aired the concern that being American demands a singular narrative.

This documentary is a difficult watch. The horror stories of history emerge as an established part of our present. And yet, it ends with a montage of mass protest against the mentality that being American must fit a given schema. Dearborn, Michigan is a snapshot of a much larger conversation; immigrants should not have to prove that they are American. The idea of an American having a single race, religion, or class is apparently dominant, and as the film demonstrates, is dangerous. For women like Sarah, Suehaila, and myself, the need to reform that archetype is more imminent than ever.

Cover Image Credit: Stocksnap

Popular Right Now

Feeling Stressed?

...

Scriptures: 

James 1:2-4

John 14:27

Romans 16:20

Luke 21:19

Psalm 118:5-6

Psalm 94:19

Romans 8:28

Psalm 55:22

Isaiah 40:31

Psalm 16:8

Joshua 1:9

Proverbs 3:5-6

1 Peter 5:7

Prayer:

Dear Lord, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like the wild sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and stress constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me. I trust your love, God, and know that you will take this stress. Just as the sun rises each day against the dark of night, please bring me clarity with the light of God.

-Amen

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Winfrey's Words On Sexual Assault Touch The Hearts Of Men And Women

The speech that has the nation talking.

For those of you who missed the Golden Globes on Sunday, January 7, Oprah Winfrey, the first black female recipient of the Cecil B. deMille Award delivered a rather ground-breaking speech on behalf of African Americans and women at large leaving many speculating her potential candidacy in the election of 2020.

In 1952, the annual tradition of presenting the Cecil B. deMille Award began when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association resolved to institute an honor that would recognize an individual's "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."

It may have come as a surprise that Winfrey's acceptance speech did not touch on any of her previous achievements as many recipients of the award have in the past. Rather, she took this opportunity to share a movingly vivid recollection of a historical event involving the rape of a young African American woman by the name of Recy Taylor.

As Winfrey shared, one evening in 1944, Taylor was returning home from church when she was seized and blindfolded by six white men who raped and left her on the side of the road. She lived to be 97 years old and drew her last breath in her sleep at a nursing home located in Abbeville, Alabama on December 28, 2017.

Winfrey's speech reflected heavily on sexual harassment and the Me Too Movement. Me Too, or #MeToo, sparked recently in October among several other social media hashtags designed to encourage women to speak out and share their stories of sexual violence.

However, what remains undoubtedly most commendable about Winfrey's speech is the fact that while she clearly stands for women, their rights, and the stand against abuse, she continues to remain an equalist. This is seen through her careful and brilliant use of language. While she spoke of our ever-growing strong feminine power, she did not use concrete words. Words that would suggest men as the inferior. In fact at the end of her speech, she did just the opposite. She brought the viewer's attention to men as well resulting in the crowd—comprised of thousands of women and men—rising to their feet for a standing ovation.

Cover Image Credit: abc NEWS

Related Content

Facebook Comments