The term American could simply mean one thing; a native or citizen of the United States, but, I believe that American is a much more loaded term. I believe that to be an American means to be free, and to be able to express your ideas and thoughts without restraint. I am far from blind, and I know that America is not a perfect place, but I do think that America offers one thing; opportunity. Blacks are not given the same opportunities as whites, but I do think that we are given some types of opportunities to succeed. I think that is what America is all about. Even in our conditions, I think that we are still able to look past them and see the chances we are given in order to do something with our lives. I think that the idea of opportunity has been ingrained in the idea of ‘American’ ever since reconstruction.
The 13th amendment that was passed during reconstruction states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This abolished slavery. This gave blacks opportunity and chance, no matter how slim these opportunities and chances were. Blacks no longer had to feel entirely helpless, because they were sure of one thing; that they would never be slaves again. Now, part of what it means to be American is to never be a slave, to always be free, and to always have opportunity. These are the biggest parts of being American, I believe.
The Freedman’s Bureau also enforced this idea of opportunity. After slavery ended, the Freedman’s Bureau was put into place. After the war in the South, it provided housing, food, legal assistance, medical aid etc.. to former black slaves and some poor whites. Without these things, the idea of opportunity would have been impossible for blacks and some whites. The Freedman’s Bureau showed that American’s did stand for opportunity and chance on some level.
Reconstruction did a lot for black people, and one of the main things was providing a type of chance and opportunity. These chances and opportunities still exist today in some aspects. There are a few stable organizations that stand for black empowerment today, such as the NAACP, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, and a few others. These associations give the possibility and prospect of succeeding to blacks, the same as the Freedmen’s Bureau did.
I also think that striving to make this country better also comes with being an American. America isn’t a great place, and it isn’t free from the repercussions of slavery yet, but it never will be if people don’t try and change it. To truly be an American, you have to want this country to succeed, and you have to work in order to keep it at the forefront of the world as a whole.
In conclusion, I think that to be an American means more than what people make it out to be. It’s not just to be from America, and it’s not just to be a citizen. I think that it is to be hardworking, to be accepting and to be accepted, to be positive, and to ultimately be free. We, as a nation, should always strive and work our hardest to make America a bit better than it was yesterday. As an American, I think that you should always look for improvement, and you should always participate in the community. To be American is to be a lot of things, and I think that the definition expands and develops for the better everyday.
What Does It Mean To Be American? by Kenny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.