Hyphenated Identities


The use of hyphenated identity names seems to be growing; you know the kind I am referring to: African-American, Mexican-American and now I heard of Muslim-American.  I have even noticed lately that the media is now dropping the hyphen. The inventors and users of these terms probably are looking for something to unite them but I see their use as divisive.  What’s wrong with just being an American?

In addition to being divisive the terms make absolutely no sense.  What is the protocol for establishing these hyphenated identities?  Is it continent-country, religion-country, race-country or some other meaningless combination?

I have often wondered if a white person born in Africa becomes an American citizen are they considered African-American?  And what about an American in Spain, are they American-Spaniards?  Or how about a black person in the United Kingdom?

All this makes about as much sense as referring to someone from the state of Ohio as an Ohio-American.

Ethnicity is fun when it comes to food and entertainment. Ethnic origins and backgrounds also contribute to the healthy exchange of ideas and indeed form the foundation of our American experience. Especially offensive among the collection of identities are the divisive terms used to separate us by skin color, race or religion.

The popular use of hyphenated identities should be scrapped; nothing useful or informative is communicated through the use of these divisive labels. We are first and foremost all equal as human beings and we are all Americans.

That’s my view, what’s yours?

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2 responses to “Hyphenated Identities

  1. The hyphenated name, as you’re aware, all comes down to identity and what people call themselves, how they refer to themselves, and for whatever reason, how they wish to be known. And as this appears to be a newer trend or something that is just more known or more visible now, it’s likely because of the interconnectedness of the globe, the transient nature of people and peoples, and the still over-riding desire to keep a bit of their primiary identities.

    Our nation, obviously, is one of immigrants, from the people who arrived a hundred years before the English colonists, to the ones who participated in the great migration from europe in the early 1800s and into the 1900s, people came here for whatever reason…leaving behind part of their identities and over time, gaining other ones. What we’re seeing today is either a resurgence of pride in family origins, or the first and second generations still identifying themselves as having come from somewhere else…. I’ve seen this occur more in people who have been marked minorities and have overcome or still working hard to overcome the attendant stigmas that greater society has placed on them.

    Being a White male with a european lineage and family history of having existed on this continent for documented hundreds of years, I don’t have a need, personally, to identify myself as belonging to a particular culture or country of origin. At times, I have wished to be anything other than a White male because of the history associated with being such…on this continent and in this particular country. But my identity doesn’t revolve around the color of my skin, gender, or ethnicity. I think this might be an unspoken luxury of being born into the country’s majority. If I had been born into any other status and worked hard to remove certain stigmas or economic situations that have been common to my “kind,” I might feel differently…and I might feel differently, strongly, especially if I were still witness to others of my “kind” being discriminated against simply for having been born with a different color of skin, or on the proverbial other side of the tracks…or river.

    And no, we don’t usually name ourselves as Ohio-Americans, or Arizona-Americans, because we’re generally comfortable naming ourselves simply as Americans, but if you get a large group of people together and start naming home-states, you will quickly observe what might be pride in people calling themselves Alabamans, or Texans, or being from New York, or whatever. It’s neither good or bad, it just is…unless one group starts identifying themselves or their group as being better-than…not just different, because we’re all different, even in our similarities, but better-than…or less-than. That’s where the problems lie, not simply in the naming.

    We could also discuss this hyphenated naming in the context of people getting married and taking-on the name of their new spouse, whether male or female. Traditionally, women take-on the names of their husbands…and in times passed and past, the woman’s identity became that of their husband, or assigned to their husband…Mrs. John Smith…not Mrs Sarah Smith, but Mrs. John Smith…she sacrificed her identity in taking her husbands. Today, as you’ve no doubt noticed, there are many women who keep their “maiden” name and attach their husband’s name afterward…Sarah Anderson Smith…she’s keeping her own identity while still identifying her new connection to her husband or mate.

    Anyway…those are some of my thoughts…my view. 🙂

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  2. Mosab Hassan Yousef is certainly a courageous but misguided man. Bucking the Hamas terrorists and its religious fanatics requires extraordinary courage. However,it is a tragedy that he left the folds of one obscurantist ideology for another. Far more people have killed and been killed in the name of Christianity than Islam. That the latter is now aspiring to outdo the former does not make either one appealing much less peaceful.

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