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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

May 3, 2006

Written by C.N.

What Being “American” Means

Have you ever really thought about what exactly does being an “American” mean? What does that identity include, or not include? A new study finds that for many Americans, behavior is more important than origin:

Ninety-four percent say that having US citizenship makes someone “truly American.” Also more than 9 out of 10 people report that speaking English well and a willingness to pledge allegiance to the flag are important in defining someone as truly American. Seventy-six percent said that having an education and training matters.

But those answers do not include what has been central in the past. For example, 70 percent said it was not important that one’s ancestors came mostly from Europe to be considered American, while 30 percent said it was. . . .

Yet the public was split over some issues, including religion. The fact that 39 percent strongly agree that being a Christian makes a person more American while 32 percent strongly disagree leads Straughn to conclude that religious divisions have become more apparent in recent decades. . . . Nonetheless, a solid majority, 86 percent, believes immigration improves America with new ideas from different cultures.

So apparently (and in very simplistic terms), Americans generally have become more accepting of multiculturalism, just as long as everybody is Christian. The bottom line seems to be that religion has emerged as the most prominent social division in American society, much more so than race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, or immigrant status.

In other words, we’ve just traded one form of difference for another . . .

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "What Being “American” Means" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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