Our VoiceNews & Politics

Who is ‘American’ Enough?


James E. Johnson Jr. • Nov 04, 2009

The New York Times headline boldly blared across my computer screen, ‘To Some, Winner Is Not American Enough’. The article debates whether Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi should be considered American or American enough.

Meb attended public school in San Diego and graduated from UCLA with a BA in communications. He has gone on to become a Principal Engineer at a national semiconductor firm.

What sets Meb apart from most of us is the fact that he is a darn good long distance runner. So good in fact he received a scholarship to UCLA and won four NCAA championships. Meb represented the U.S. twice in the Olympics and won the silver medal in 2004.

He also won the New York City marathon which is when his Americaness came into question. You see, Meb is the first American, since Alberto Salazar – who was born in Cuba and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was two in 1982 – to win the New York City marathon. Meb is the ‘living’ American dream; he has worked hard, paid taxes, and represented his country brilliantly. Meb is just an All-American guy.

What some people cannot get over is the fact that Meb was born in Eritrea. Meb’s family immigrated to the U. S. in 1987 when he was 12, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1998.

Which brings into question, who gets to choose who is an American? Patrick J. Buchanan recently wrote an article titled “Traditional Americans Are Losing Their Nation”, in which he inferred that ‘Traditional Americans’ are White Christians and that somehow the U.S. belongs only to them and it is being stolen.

Of course, we remember that Sarah Palin believes there are only small pockets of ‘real America’ where people work hard, are very patriotic, and pro-America. These small pockets did not include New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Miami or any other place where diverse people and ideas live.

Ms. Palin was quickly outdone by Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota who called into question then-Senator Barack Obama’s patriotism and suggested the news media should investigate whether members of Congress were “pro-America” and/or “anti-America”.

Unfortunately, this is not new. Until the 14th amendment, Blacks in America were considered two-thirds of a person. During World War II the U.S. rounded up and put into concentration camps Americans of Asian descent, and today racial profiling is use to identify people who may or may not be U.S. citizens by virtue of the color of their skin or the way they worship.

Who gets to choose who is American or American enough? And how will they choose? Will it be your skin color? Where you were born? Where your parents were born? Your religion? How well you speak the language? What party you belong to? Your sexual orientation?

Who gets to choose? Will it be one person or a committee? It may be too much for one person, maybe it should be a committee. And maybe the committee should include Patrick and Sarah and Michelle and David Duke and John Tanton. And maybe it should be called the committee of Un-American or Un-American activities. And maybe, just maybe, they can channel Senator Joseph McCarthy.

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