Independence without acceptance is un-American

The Fourth of July means more to many than hot dogs and fireworks. However, I can already see the red, white and blue fireworks spark above my head. This is partly due to my imagination, and partly due to some neighbors who decided to start the celebrations a few nights early. But as I consider these dangerously close images of lights and sound, I wonder what these colors stand for now.

Meanings and implications change with time and develop with maturity, and America today is different than the America of my birth some 18 years ago. The Fourth was originally intended to celebrate the independence of the United States from Britain. Yet much has changed since the days of powdered wigs and muskets.

America has often been referred to as various dishes – typically a melting pot or a tossed salad. Each delectable item of the dish represents the diversity and unity of America. Everyone is different, but everyone is in it together. Unfortunately, due to the events of recent years, it seems America has forgotten her delicious – but accurate – image.

The recent terror attacks on the United States and other free-world nations have caused rifts in America’s seemingly “P.C.” acceptance policy.

A few years ago, I was waiting for a plane somewhere in the Northeast with my debate team. I noticed five or six Middle Eastern men come to our gate and sit down. For the most part, they had dark brown or black hair, tanned complexions, white or beige headpieces and light-colored linen pants with matching long-sleeved shirts that extended past their hips. In other words, they were stereotypically Middle Eastern. I turned back to my team only to see some of my peers’ mouths gaping open. The eldest of us rushed to the coach, expressing that she did not want to go on the plane because she was afraid – afraid of the Middle Eastern men. None of us had spoken to the men or knew anything about them. She had made her conclusion based on appearances alone.This incident broke my heart when it happened and it still breaks my heart today.

Being Middle Eastern is not synonymous with being a terrorist. Terrorism is a tactic – a tool – and not one reserved for a particular race of people. It is true that terrorism is common in the Middle East because of the deadly and inhumane struggles that occur and originate in the area, but this hardly means that everyone who originates from that area is a terrorist.

If America continues to hold this racist idea of what a terrorist is, how is America American anymore? When millions of immigrants entered this country, including my grandparents, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus instructed their countries to “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Is America not accepting these “huddled masses” anymore? If not, what has America become?

If the argument were to be made that a true American must have roots only in the grounds between Canada and Mexico, the majority of the population would not qualify. The Native Americans were here first, fair and square, which is an entire discussion in and of itself. Almost everyone living in America today, even those with lineage going back to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, are immigrants. They are foreign. They are not ‘from here.’

My definition of an American, a definition important to consider during the upcoming holiday, is someone who not only seeks equality but also treats everyone else with that same equality. The colors of the American flag many will wave on Wednesday are much like America’s edible image. Each color represents different virtues and ideas. However, they work together to harmoniously create a symbol that stands for an entire nation, an entire ideal. The American way is the way of acceptance. A true American does not judge others by appearances, but rather by their actions and individual characters.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.