What Does it Mean to be “American?”

The concept of being a part of a nation– or empire, if you will, has a metaphorical meaning other than the one having to do with land size and dictators and such.

The United States is an empire of its own accord with a history of expanding borders and growing in population of people as it conquered new-found land.

Though most of the conquering was, well, centuries ago, what we are left with in today’s time is a melting pot of people with a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. Some born and raised in this country, some apply and earn their citizenship, and some fall under in the grey area of living here but not exactly having official documentation. Regardless– these are Americans. American people under this American empire.

The issue that I find myself pondering far too often on a day-to-day basis is:

Though American people not of non-Hispanic, white backgrounds can live their whole lives in this country as American citizens, why do many face racism and microaggressions as if they are not a part of the nation as equals to their Anglo-American counterparts?

Though racism is an old but existing blemish in American history, today it can be argued that a public interest in social justice has risen in the past couple of years.

Kaphar, T. Yet Another Fight for Remembrance. 2014.

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained popularity and salience since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (Black Lives Matter). In a nation founded on the protection of one’s natural rights, the concept of creating an organization to defend such rights, let alone your right to “matter,” seems absurd. But, that only gives more meaning to the importance of the issue within the American empire.

We can also look at the Roman empire as an entity that grants its people certain rights under citizenship. In a lecture I was a part of last Wednesday, my professor had mentioned that the Roman empire, once it conquered new territories, considered the local people a part of their empire as Romans as well. In the Bible, Paul the Apostle was brought in for interrogation for causing a public disturbance. The centurion had the intentions of beating Paul with a lash, but Paul questioned if it was morally right to beat him for he was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25).

In this same way, “the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity” is brought to attention by the Black Lives Matter movement (Black Lives Matter).

Being treated as if your life is of less value or importance to another person who shares all of the same rights that should be honored unto you because of your ethnic background or skin color: that is an issue the American empire has been struggling with since the days of legal segregation.

It is a paradox, to say the least, that in this empire you are guaranteed natural rights that are supposed to be protected by law, but whether or not the protection actually falls through when your rights are violated is debatable. In this sense though one may be considered part of this American empire, it does not necessarily mean that one experiences the benefits of what it is to be “American.”


Works Cited

“Acts 22, New English Translation – The Roman Commander Questions Paul.” Bible.com, n.d., https://www.bible.com/bible/107/act.22.netAccessed 02 Oct. 2016.

Cullors, Patrice, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. “About.” Black Lives Matter. Haki Creatives, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016. http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/.

Kaphar, Titus. Yet Another Fight for Rememberance. 2014. Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Jack Shainman Gallery, http://www.jackshainman.com/artists/titus-kaphar/Accessed 02 Oct. 2016.


4 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be “American?””

  1. Hi Kiana! I enjoyed reading your blog as it was very specific and to the point. It’s crazy to see how society hasn’t really changed for over thousands of years. People still treat other people of different nationalities differently — of higher or lower status. Our natural rights, given to us from the moment we are born, can be violated over and over again based on our background and family history. I believe it is time for real change, and for the future generations to truly be taught how to view everyone as equals, so everyone can feel how it is to be “American.”


  2. Hi Kiana! I absolutely loved your post, because it’s the truth! It’s insane to see that many years have passed and yet no progress has been made when it comes to one’s individual rights, especially if you come from an ethnic background. It’s outrageous that racism still exists and will, unfortunately, continue to exist as long as people are still teaching it around the world. I liked that you chose this topic to discuss 🙂


  3. Hello Kiana~ Your blog was very deep. It dealt with sensitive topic: racism. I, too, experienced racism when I was little and questioned what it meant to be “American”. Does being American and having the natural rights require physical qualities such as pale skins or blue eyes. It is very sad to know and experience discrimination in 21st century, and I hope your blog can enlighten others to realize how closed shelled they are.


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