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What It Means To Be American

1537 words - 7 pages

What it means to be American? Everybody you ask this question to will have a completely different response. Some responses might have similarities but none will be exactly the same. In the beginning of the year my response was “To be an American means having a rich history, having opportunities to better ourselves, and having freedoms.” Unfortunately not everyone has had the same opportunities or freedoms. Native Americans, who are indigenous, dealt with having their freedoms taken away, less opportunities even though they had rich history in this land before it was taken away from them. Look at what Zitkala-Sa endured. Not only that, but African Americans have fought long and hard for freedom and equality as well. W.E.B. Du Bois stood for change. His opposition of Booker T. Washington’s views are recorded in “The Souls of Black Folk”. Immigrants are another oppressed group. Ralph Ellison also speaks of difficulties endured and how he was treated in “Invisible Man”. Gloria Anzaldua tells of first-hand experiences of Mexicans having their equality and freedoms stripped in “El Sonavabitche”.

Native Americans are considered the first group to be established here in what we call America. As I stated earlier “To be an American means having a rich history, having opportunities to better ourselves, and having freedoms.” Natice Americans have some of the richest history of any culture. The passed down stories of their ancestors from generation to generation, they had ultimate freedom as hunters and gatherers, doing whatever they had to, to survive. The story of what happened to the Native Americans is common knowledge, so I won’t talk about that, what I will talk about is someone who endured duress. Zitkala-Sa “School Days of an Indian Girl” Zitkala-Sa tells of her experiences in the boarding school. “Just then I heard Thowin’s tremulous answer, “No.” With an angry exclamation, the woman gave her a hard spanking.” Zitkala-Sa explains here an experience her and her friends endured. She talks about a spanking her friend Thowin receives after playing in the snow. “During the first two or three season misunderstandings as ridiculous as this one of the snow episode frequently took place, bringing unjustifiable frights and punishments into our little lives.” Here you are talking about a young girl who is taken to a boarding school and forced to change. Freedoms taken away from her in the hope for education and opportunities. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to give up freedoms, maybe a little bit of ourselves? Do we endure these difficulties now to then better ourselves in the future? I’m sure that’s something Zitkala-Sa thought about. She wanted to be educated like the “paleface” Maybe she thought to be like the “paleface” was to be American. For Zitkala-Sa the ending is a bitter-sweet moment. “There were two prizes given, that night, and one of them was mine! The little taste of victory did not satisfy a hunger in my heart. In my mind I saw my mother...

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