What Does It Mean To Be An American?

During my graduate program, I was recently asked "What does it mean to be an American?"

The answer might appear obvious at first, but the more I tried to answer what should have been a simple question, the more I found myself researching what others defined an American as. Her are some of the responses I found:

"Anyone living within the geopolitical boundaries of the United States."

"I suspect that most of us believe, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in describing pornography, that we "know it when we see it." For example, John Wayne, Amelia Earhart, and Bill Cosby definitely are Americans. The day laborers standing on the street corner probably are not."

"Being "an American" is not the same thing as simply living in the United States. Nor, I would add, is it the same thing as holding U.S. citizenship. After all, a baby born on U.S. soil to an illegal alien is a citizen. This hardly guarantees that this baby will grow up to be an American."

"Unlike most other nations on Earth, the American nation is not strictly defined in terms of race or ethnicity or ancestry or religion. The inescapable conclusion seems to be that one chooses to be an American by adhering to the principals laid out in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. By choosing to become part of the body politic and by agreeing to live in solidarity with the rest of the polity."

And as Mr. Webster likes to define it "a citizen of the United States of America."

Even after my research, I still have not concluded what I define an American to be. Perhaps it is because some of my closests friends (from various Countries) and family members (including my late Grandparents) have lived in the Untied States the majority of their lives, worked everyday, were educated in the same school systems, played in the same parks and yet because they don't have 'citizenship' they are not considered real 'Americans.'

I know it is easy to say "well if they don't have their papers then their not Americans. Simple." But is it really that simple?

For many who are not born with the privilege of being a "documented American Citizen" the concept of being American is so much more than obtaining a few papers that says they are qualified to be American... It symbolizes their freedom.

Even for those patriotic US citizens, I guarantee when the word American comes to their mind, images of our soldiers fighting for our freedom and our Country's red white and blues waving above our Nations Capitol comes to mind way before an image of their drivers license or passport.

But as I said before, I may have a biased opinion.

And although I may not be politically correct, I can't help but believe more what I feel is right as oppossed to what others tell me is.

Being American is a word that only holds power if you believe it does. Same thing as the word man, Chinese, black or gay. They mean nothing unless people say they do. They are used to commonly distinguish something from another, but in reality they all fall under one unified umbrella…that they are all human.