I have to admit I used to be big in calling myself Mexican or Mexican-American in my youth. I was so into it too. “Viva Mexico!” Would be an easy thing for me to say back then and I remember detailed conversations with friends of mine about where my loyalties really were. What can I say really to that except that I was young and ignorant. I never gave much thought to the fact that I used to complain about being treated differently because of my race and the next day be proudly asking those around me to recognise my differences and happily celebrate and define myself by those differences. I never recognised the dangers that kind of thinking could pose to myself, my future children and my country.
Things did change for me however in a blink of an eye. I was 21 years old and I was working for Sam’s Club over in Lansing, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. I arrived at work at about 4:30 am and the store opened at 7 am. When lunch time came around, I was interrupted by a frantic co-worker about some events going on in N.Y City. As I got into the lunch room, it happened. I saw live as the second plane went into the Trade Center. The events that would follow that defining moment would ultimately cause me to change my views on many issues.
The days that followed after 9/11 , I stuck to the television( as many Americans did) watching all the coverage I could. I remember specifically as the names of the casualties would be listed off. I remember their names being scrolled down the screen. I don’t remember however their hyphenated American descriptions listed . They were all called Americans (except those with foreign citizenship). I saw images of people covered in ash, helping each other and embracing each other for comfort without any care in the world about their difference. I remember when the entire country heard the news that the targets were chosen specifically to maximise American casualties. That the terrorist regimes have started a war on Americans and have vowed to kill all Americans. I don’t remember during those news reports that the terrorists were omitting Mexican -American or Italian- Americans or African- Americans. I thought to myself, why were we in America the only ones that freely chose to be Hyphenated Americans? The rest of the world surely does not.
So, Why do you think we do it?
The years passed and since that day in 2001 I’ve done a lot of debating and have talked to many different people on this issue and have gotten a number of different responses as to why we in America think it’s perfectly fine to segregate ourselves the way we do.
1)America is melting pot of nationalities. Everybody loyal to their original place of origin.
Though this may have been a good excuse back in the early years of settlements and for recent immigrants, This excuse does not work for those whose ancestors have been in this country for generations. Most people who hyphenate were born in this country. Those that have actually been to their original country of origin , were only there for a very short period of time, like a vacation but most have never been there at all. Secondly, I look at the fact that America is melting pot of nationalities as such a success here in our great nation. I also really like the term “Melting pot”. In a melting pot, more than one substances are combine to create a final product. Let’s take cooking as an example. When we combine noodles and cheese and tomato sauce and sausages and we throw it in the oven. When it’s done and we take it out, do we say “mmmmm, this noodles and cheese and tomato sauce and sausages smell great.” No, but we do love the lasagna we have just made. This country is a great melting pot where we combine ethnicities of all kinds from around the world. We take all the differences and experiences from our original country of origin and we throw them all into this “melting pot” and the end product is the American. It’s a great product and one we should take great pride in recognising.
2) No one is really an American except the native Americans.
I am so damn tired of hearing this ridiculous thought. The whole “logic” behind this notion is that the Native Americans were on this land before any other settlers. I’m wondering why the people that support this idea decided to stop at the “native americans” when talking about immigrants. This is the 21st century and the genealogy of damn near the entire human race has already been mapped and the findings have shown that the entire human race originated in the “cradle of life” in Africa. The genealogy of the Native Americans have shown that they derived previously from Siberia and emigrated to this country through the bering strait. So just because they may have been the first immigrants doesn’t mean that they have more right to this land than anybody else. The came and claimed this land as theirs, more than likely from other tribes that were here before and as the ones who came after did. Only to date, can we not say positively that there wasn’t anybody here first.
3)We are all in America. America is a continent and there is a North , south and middle America so technically, everybody in these continents have the right to call themselves Americans.
This has got to be the dumbest logic I’ve ever heard and yes, I have heard this. First, Thanks for the lesson on the Americas. I had third grade social studies too. Let me begin by mentioning that even if we use this logic it would not answer the hyphenated American question here in the United States. If we accept this logic, then everybody here would be American-American, according to the way we hyphenate today. Secondly, I would love anybody to find one person in the Americas other than in the United States that hyphenates including their continent of Americas. So go out and find me a “Canadian- American” in Canada, A “Mexican-American” in Mexico and an Argentinean- American” In Argentina. That’s right, you’re not going to be able to.
4) We have to be proud of our origins or else we lose sight of our ancestors, insult our families and turn our backs on our history
This is ridiculous. Just because we recognise and hold loyalties to our country of birth does not mean that we turn our backs on our linage, our traditions and our roots. Not hyphenating does not change the color of my skin and does not make me forget the second language I know. Not hyphenating does not make me ignorant to the struggles my ancestors, my grandparent or my parents had to go through to either get to this country or to live in this country. My mother who was born in Mexico proudly calls me and my siblings Americans not Mexicans.Everybody should be proud of their ethnicity. One should study and learn as much as they possibly can about their history. It’s those ingredients that are thrown into this melting pot of a nation that makes us great. Though I have not hyphenated myself for over a decade , I have never stopped being proud of my background and love educating anybody who asks of it. I still speak two languages and I still have brown skin. Our histories can never be taken away.
Then where does the hyphens come from?
So now we’ve found that there really is no logical reason to hyphenating ourselves. So logically, the next question is , where did the hyphenations come from?
This question was an interesting one so I did my researching and found something very interesting. The Origins of Hyphenating was created for the sole purpose of belittling the German Americans or Irish Americans (Catholics) who called for U.S. neutrality in World War I.The term "hyphenated American" was published by 1889, and was common as a derogatory term by 1904. It was used to define those who have still held some loyalties to their original nations.
Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Rough Rider himself was the first ( That’s right, I wasn’t the first. Surprise to me as well) To speak against the growing trend of the Hyphenated American.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.”
So why is it done and what is really the harm?
Teddy Roosevelt knew back then that this trend of hyphenating would ultimately separate us into illegitimacy and it has. As he predicted we now spend more time arguing amongst ourselves and have allowed for our government to run rampant around us.
Throughout history there have been two great ways of conquering the masses. A military technique called “Divide and Conquer” that was made famous by the great military strategist Napoleon Bonaparte and a political technique known in Latin as “Panem et Circenses” Which means, Bread and Circuses.
Divide and Conquer is a strategy involving gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.
Panem Et Circenses- "Bread and circuses" (or bread and games) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered "palliative." Its originator, Juvenal, used the phrase to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the commoner.
"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses"
Juvenal here makes reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power.
So let’s look at the people who have been determine to be called the minority. The only thing that gives this word power is the fact that we have separated ourselves to the point we actually keep numbers of how many of each group there is in this country. Without Hyphenations, this concept of racial minority would not exist, however it is important to those in power. Inequality has always been a focal point in this country and the world. This country was created to make all men equal. Though this concept is a very far stretch from what we see now, and though this concept was quickly turned into another means to hold power over others, the originators of the constitution believed in equality for all and wrote the constitution in a way that gives every person in this country the power. It is the masses that hold the real power. The elected official were only supposed to hold enough power to speak for the masses.
So is there Harm and is there a reason why from birth we are taught to separate ourselves from those in our own country that are different from us? Well, I think the answer to this is a huge yes. By this point in my rant we know that there really isn’t any logical reason to hyphenate and the the originality of the concept was for those in the majority to belittle those who had contrary opinions, so they held less power and influence. We also know that the way the constitution was written was so that the individual, not the state held the power. We can then make a powerful assumption that by keeping the masses arguing against each other it would be breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power.
So why is it such a norm and what can we really do about it?
It really has just become a fad. Though it is perfectly fine and we should celebrate our differences and our cultures, it is not o.k. to define ourselves first by these differences. The true reasons for the hyphens have been lost to history and most people are not open enough to see through the purpose of why these subconscious forms of segregation is so useful to not only the government but to all entities trying to hold power over the masses, either politically or economically. I understand though that it is hard to see past what we have been taught since birth. Those in power have been teaching us from the womb how different we are. We have been taught labels either by parents or the educational systems while our brains were still at their most influential. Most people are not even aware at the dangers excluding ourselves from the powers we hold as United Americans can cause. In these days we see government that have chosen( with little resistance) to run itself. To pass it’s own laws and regulations. To police and investigate themselves whenever they are accused of wrongdoing. The voice of the people have been reduced to a whisper. Our attentions have been diverted by hollywood scandals, cheap entertainment or the pursuit of the next great technology. Battles of racial inequalities that only exist because we refuse to unite ourselves as one are allowing the the focus to be turned away of those we chose to be our voices. So Yes, There is dangers in hyphenating! There is dangers in separating ourselves from the people we were born next to! The people that we share this great country of ours with! The people who hold an individual spark that adds to the flame that can retake control of an over expanding and growing tyrannical government and yes, we can do something about it.
The few days and maybe months after the destruction of the trade center and the murder of thousands of American citizens people around the country were uniting. They were treating each other friendlier, like they were family. Like they were one. For that short time in America, everybody was simply an American. No Hyphens. I know this concept can work. I know there is hope that we as a country can stop focusing on our differences and start recognising our similarities as Americans living together. We need to teach our children that out of everybodies differences, we develop the perfect American, which they are. A country that celebrates each others cultures but does not allow our people to be defined by them. We are in the right direction by allowing each other to partake in different cultural celebrations, customs and foods. Let’s take the next steps in dropping the hyphens. Refuse to be defined as anything but American. Don’t allow anybody to classify you by where your ancestors originated from. Make them understand that you are proud of being an American. This country has been in existence long enough to allow ourselves to be defined only as Americans. All other countries define us only as Americans already. Maybe we should take a lead from them.
Erase racism, DROP THE HYPHEN and allow yourself to be a spark to the fire that is THE AMERICAN
Don't be afraid. That ringing you hear in your ears is just a bit of
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