It’s world cup season, and amongst many other things that meant I got thinking a bit about national identity again. I’m Mexican, and that fact is as true as they come— everything from my passport to my memories are Mexican and in Mexico. Nonetheless, as this video reminded me, there’s a lot of people who have to grapple with the foundations of their national identity much more than I do:
This commonplace grappling with identity is probably the singular thing that’s been hardest to get used to in the USA. It’s a weird tango full of odd rules and antics that some people here have down to a T, but I still don’t understand on many levels. Almost 9 1/2 years later, I'm still learning suprising things about it.
No one in this country seems to be American— no one except the white people that is. Everyone is always something else before being American; Asian-American, African-American, Indian-American, Mexican-American, etc, but white people, they keep the "American" just for themselves.
The real tragedy of this all is that took the demonym from some of us, who are actually Americans. America was the name given to the whole continent, not just one country. This whole continent was called America long before the USA needed a demonym, and this continent was Mexica, Mayan, Inca, Olmec, Caral, Taíno, Wayú, etc etc long before it was "white".
We are the Americans, and it’s just tragic that they took even that from us— our demonym, our name. Imagine if Elon Musk could call himself African, but black people had to refer to themselves as Native-African, or Kenyan-African, Ugandan-African, or anything else, because “African sounds white”. Imagine if the word “African” had such a strong association with European-inspired wooden houses and golf-courses built on stolen desert land, that new term was necessary to make you think about black people in their own continent instead. That’s the magnitude of the American tragedy.
It brings this song to mind.