Funny Americans

John said, “He has a funny name…no way he’s American…he ain’t one of us.”  Amy followed, “His sister has a funny accent, so clearly she isn’t one of us either.”  Even Miguel, who goes by Mike in some circles, chimed in, “With funny names and accents like those, there’s no way either of them are really Americans.” (They actually mean from the United States of America, but I’ll leave the misuse of the term “American” for another blog post.)

So what’s wrong with conversations like these?

  1. They happen way too often.
  2. They are contradictions.
  3. They undermine our future.

They Happen Way Too Often

It some parts, I suspect the “they are not American like us” conversation happens rather openly.  In places where “political correctness” is observed, I suspect it happens just as much, just not as loud.  My name can easily switch from “Alberto” to “Al” and I can go from Spanish to Spanglish to non-accent-North American-English within the same conversation.  As such, access to a broad spectrum of sub-groups and related social attitudes is part of my reality.  Granted, my testimony is anecdotal; I find it troubling how often I hear folks express this viewpoint of “we’re more American” vs. “they are not American like me” based on the artificial qualifiers of “funny names” and/or “funny accents.”  And yes, the way you look factors in as well.

They Are Contradictions

The same folks who claim to be more American than most too often express an attitude of exclusion towards those amongst us with so-called funny names and accents (social inequality..anyone? anyone?).  Last I recall, this idea of the United States of America as this “shiny city atop a hill” and so-called “American Exceptionalism” is, in part, rooted in the vision of a place where diversity is one of our nation’s core strengths.  The poem engraved in the Statue of Liberty declares, “”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  What makes us Americans is our yearning for freedom.  Period.

Statue of Liberty Poem by Emma Lazarus

They Undermine Our Future

Today, our economy is fragile.  Our currency is relatively weak.  Our future is nebulous.  The only certainty is this: the nations with the smartest, most hardworking and innovative minds will win the future.  For those of us who grew up here, we believed that the smartest, most hardworking and innovative minds gathered here, in the United States of America.  Looking forward, do you feel assured that this will remain the case?  As it has always been, our ability to attract and keep immigrants will be our competitive advantage in an intensely competitive global-market arena…our ability to attract and keep folks with so-called “funny names” and “funny accents” is how we win.

I am grateful for this list of “Funny Americans” who currently contribute to our nation’s well-being (in no particular order):

Indra Nooyi – CEO, PespiCo

Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo

Barack Obama – President, USA

President of the United States of America

Fareed Zakaria, CNN's GPS

Sergey Brin, Co-Founder, Google

Sergey Brin, Co-founder, Google

Tony Jimenez, CEO, MicroTech

Tony Jimenez, CEO, MicroTech

So no matter if your name is John, Juan, Juanita, Joshua, or Jamal, I hope you and your families never stop pursuing your freedom here, in (the United States of) America.

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8 comments

  1. Awesome post Alberto! “Funny Americans” are crucial for networking in a global community and it’s disappointing that some are close-minded enough to believe that a variety of accents and names aren’t precisely what our nation is all about. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    1. Chantilly,

      Thank you for visiting Born Bicultural USA and sharing your thoughts. Not surprisingly, I agree with you. We’ll revisit this topic again in the future. I hope to interview you for the follow-up piece. Again, thanks for stopping by as well as your kind words.

      Saludos,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

      1. Alberto, sure, I would love to talk on this topic more. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while…ever since I started my own [BiculturalMom.com] and was doing a search to see if the name was available…of course that led me here. 😉 Really great thoughts going on here!

  2. Finally someone gave gave a clear explanation what an American is; a person born on the land of America. Since my ancestors have been in the Americas prior to the Columbus era (Taino Indians from Central America) I wonder were that puts me as American enough?

    Thank You,

    Eduardo or Edward, Eddie, Ed , the funny looking guy with the accent !!!

  3. I understand where you are coming from. I am an American living in Costa Rica. I am constantly called Gringo and treated poorly because I am a minority. I am a citizen here and people still call me different because I don’t speak Spanish very well and because I offer constructive criticism to help them improve their lives. The world has to change for people like me. It is unacceptable for people to think that I am not a Costa Rica just because I am different.

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