The Hyphenated or Forward Slash American

I dislike African-/American. I dislike Mexican-/American. I also dislike Italian-/American and Chinese-/American.  Discern a pattern here? I assure you it’s non-racist and non-bigoted.

What I dislike is the practice of putting the country of origin before America, emphasizing where one’s family came from before where they are now. It just serves to fragment us into separate ethnic camps.  In my day, we were taught in social studies that America was the great Melting Pot. All the different ingredients poured in, I mean, were poured into the pot where they all blended together into the stew called Americans.

Why is that people who cry “America First!” are so eager to put another country’s name in front of America? That’s what the hyphen or the forward slash does—it separates us from America. I’m all for being proud of one’s ethnic identity and heritage, but when our foreparents came to this shore past the Statute of Liberty, walked onto Ellis Island, and later took the oath of citizenship, they made a pact to swear allegiance to the American flag, not the Greek-/American flag, or the Lebanese-/American flag.  There are two exceptions to the oath takers: blacks who were brought here as slaves and Native Americans. I dislike Native American. I dislike it because it’s inaccurate. Whether they are called Native Americans or Indians they did not originate here, unless America 3000 years or so ago annexed Asia including the foot path across the Bering Strait. There are no indigenous people here. We’re all immigrants, folks! And although American Indian is also inaccurate, it’s a lot closer to “American indigenous” if that’s the point someone is trying to make.

And what about the term Native American? What’s to stop tribes from taking it further and describing themselves as Navajo-/Native American-/American or Seminole-/Native American-/American or Snohomish-/Native American-/American or Cherokee-/Native American-/American? And what about the Sioux? Are they Dakota-/Sioux/Native American-/American or Lakota etc. or Teton etc. or Santee, etc. or Nakota etc. or Yankton etc.? But then you got your Oglala, etc. Lakota Sioux and Mdeakantonwon, etc. Dakota Sioux and both Upper AND Lower Yankton-/Yankton and on and on. It would be the same thing when dealing with Arabic tribes and Palestinians. But I digress.

Let’s take these hyphenated or forward slash labels out to their absurd conclusion. My kids can describe themselves as Russian-/Romanian-/Polish-/Irish-/German-/Native American-/American. What one ethnic group could they possibly belong to?

The Israelis and the Iranians are very aware of their ethnic origins and look how well that’s working out for them.

But we still haven’t reached the limits of absurdity. We’ve yet to arrive at Jewish/- or Christian-/ or Muslim-/ or Presbyterian-/ or Episcopalian-/ or Lutheran-/ or Baptist-/ or Southern Baptist-/ or Mormon-/ or Seventh-Day Adventist-/ or Jehovah’s Witness-/ or Buddhist-/ or Agnostic-/ or Atheist-/ Pantheist-/ or ad infinitum added to the ethnic mix of origin names. Let’s go further: Democratic-/, Republican-/, Green-/, Peace and Freedom-/, Independent-/, and blah blah blah.

And with each additional name, the groups keep getting smaller and smaller until your children are in their own group separate from yours.

So, forgive me if I don’t get into the whole hyphenated or forward slash thing. I refuse to do it for skin color, too. There are no Black or Caucasian or Red or Yellow or Brown Americans to me.

I’ll say it again: the practice of putting the country of origin before America, emphasizing where one’s family came from before where they are now, just serves to fragment us into separate ethnic camps. It puts ME in front of US. And take a look around our country today: it’s US against THEM, them being the powers that be that are intent on helping us build our separate camps.


So, I for one will eschew all of these hyphenated or forward slash American labels. Because when the day comes and the space aliens land and interbreed with humans, I don’t want to even begin to think of learning how to spell THOSE names…






3 thoughts on “The Hyphenated or Forward Slash American

  1. Liked it, very well said!

  2. I’m schizophrenic on this one. You are making a case for community and equality, but others may use similar reasoning to attack groups other than their own. I’m thinking of the Tea partiers in Arizona banning ethnic studies or the columnist who complained that candidate Obama isn’t a “full blooded” American.
    My ex-wife refers to herself as an African American. She and several of her friends lectured me on white privilege regularly. It was their view that they could never be fully accepted by some people or in certain situations, and that my occasional advocacy of “color blindedness” was trying to “whitewash” others and force them to give up an important part of their identity. Here’s an example of that type of conversation:

    • farlefty says:

      I can’t tell if these are real people or actors in this diversity training video. Maybe I’m just a cynical person. I’m a strong advocate for equality among all peoples except for those who hate other people, although I do hate teabaggers and Republicans in general, but that’s just a liberal thing.

      I still maintain my stance on eliminating all sub-classifications of Americans is valid. If people want to label themselves, let them join the Elks or the Mooses or something.

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