What am I?

Avatar of Yancy Micel Alegre-Pacheco
Opinion Column

I am American. At least, that’s my nationality. The stigma surrounding the word “American” makes me struggle to identify myself with it. When I am asked this question similar to “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” I always say I’m from the U.S. just to see their face contort. But when I am asked about my ethnicity I always say that I am Honduran and Filipina or Hispanic and Asian.

When I say this, I myself flinch, because deep down I feel this is not true. I feel I’m not enough of either to consider being put in the same sentence as them.

However, at this point, I have somewhat come to accept the idea of being “American.” Though the culture of the U.S. is not apparent, just like a blood stain on a white shirt, any person of color sticks out. When you think of an “American,” you think of burgers, hot dogs and the Fourth of July, but we are so much more than that. We are the capitalist scum, we are the righteous protesters on Wall Street, we are shooters, we are shot at, we are the suburbs, we are the ghetto. The history of the people versus the government is a long and strong one in our country. Most of the conflicts were to fight for something that was taken away or to gain something that was never had. The start of the U.S. independence was caused by people who were done with being under unfair government control, yet in many ways, continued to be the thing they ran from. But from the roots of the U.S., we were always the ones who fought. We were born to be free.

I say this to explain that although the U.S. is far more than just burgers, hot dogs and the Fourth of July, I still am not associated with the Christian housewife that gossips about Mary Lou Anne’s son at book club, not as if I could ever be any other Midwestern stereotype. Since I am not American enough to belong, I’m not Latina enough to belong, and I’m not Filipina enough to belong, I don’t belong. I’ve explained that I am not great at fulfilling the American prophecies so you’d expect me to be something else. I am not. I am whitewashed, to say the least. I grew up listening to classic American rock and all that. I never learned to move at parties; unlike Shakira, my hips share plenty of lies. Yet, as I’ve explored in other columns, I am constantly experiencing the push and pull of the cultures and environments that surround me and will continue to surround me. This is because the categories that societal norms have created don’t have a box for me. I’m too dark to be looked at as an American. There are few people that have had similar experiences as me. At this point, it’s hard to have anyone to express frustration to, as not many will get the feeling of being entirely left out of your identity.

You can’t be something that you’re not, and I wish it was far easier to just be yourself in the land of the free. I’ve learned to not let others tell me if I’m up to their standards.