Race & Identity:
For most of my life, race has been a serious identity issue for me, which makes sense for a half-black, half-white kid who was raised in a American city heavily influenced by Mexican culture. I have struggled with my racial identity for years and it is only recently that I have begun to feel comfortable with how I view myself, but regardless of how comfortable I have felt race has always been the primary way in which I defined myself.

My experiences in Ghana, however, have forced me to confront another piece of my own identity, which I have disregarded for my entire life: I am an American. I have lived 23 years as an American, but I have never really thought about what that means to my identity in the greater context of the world. Perhaps I never probed this aspect of my identity because I rarely came in contact with entirely foreign cultures, and I have certainly never lived in one for an extended period of time, but since I stepped on the plane in Phoenix, which would take me to Accra I have been very aware of my American-ness. I knew I would be working with Europeans and Africans and I was terrified they would hold some sort of prejudice against me because I was an American. America has done so many bad things throughout her history, and continues to flex her international muscle to the dismay and disgust of many in the international community. I felt that my co-workers would hold these things against me.

Three things about being an American:
But over the last three months I have begun to realize a few things about my American heritage: 1) I am 100% American and I am proud of it; 2) American culture DOES exist and I am tired of ppl saying it doesn’t. Our culture may not be as civilized or sophisticated as the Europeans, but we have a culture to be proud of. There are very good things within our country. 3) America could be so much better and I feel a responsibility to make it better.

I am the descendant of African slaves, original Americans (Indians), and European immigrants. Mine is an experience that, like Obama’s, could only have occurred in America and I am damn proud of it.

Americans culture is varied and strange, but it does exist. Our culture is very diverse, varied, and difficult to define. Some features of our culture are even negative, but we do have a culture and I want to begin documenting American culture, starting with my own family. When I get back to the States I would like to start a program that enables Americans to capture their stories and legacies via interviews, pictures, artifacts, etc. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but in 2009 I would like to begin the American Culture Project.

I was just in America last week. While there, my emotions and hopes for our country were schizophrenic. I hated the arrogance, ignorance, waste, and entitlement I saw, but during the same trip I was truly inspired by the words and actions of some of my friends. I was sitting in coffee shop in Harlem discussing my my friends Shakirah and Sophia how we can feel a change coming. People in America are no longer going to accept the status quo. We are now striving for meaning, substance, and change. We realize the way we have been living is not the way it has to be. I apologize for the vague rhetoric, but I am still trying to figure things out myself. But I do know that America is going to get better. We are not going to accept a way of life that is not meaningful any longer. My friends who are following their passions are helping me to realize this. I think this change within America will lead to a more positive role in the world. I hope so.


One Response to “American”

  1. alexis Says:

    being abroad (especially in a developing country) truly gives you newfound appreciation for what it is that makes us american. i’m usually one of the first to critisize the US and our arrongance and materialism, and yet, our belief in opinion, independence, and change are all things that make america great.

    (this is alexis rife by the by. i just got back from the philippines, thus my ability to relate to what you’re experiencing)

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