When it comes to the concept of “America”, most people think of the land of the free, being born in the US while being patriotic and proud. According to Ibram X. Kendi, “American” means denial of the current and past issues being suppressed by the people of America. The article titled “Denial is the heartbeat of America” addresses the way America has a pattern of denial of the reality on which the US has been built, including the past in ways that has been shown to repeat in current events. Ibram X. Kendi states “We need to see this reality with clear eyes, because nothing has held back America more than its denial.” In other words, Kendi believes that Americans’ constant obliviousness towards what is currently happening is ultimately what is holding us back as a nation. Kendi uses examples and information about accurate historical events to justify his point in his article. While doing so, Kendi also uses rhetorical strategies, specifically rhetorical questions throughout his paper to clearly deliver his stance and have readers think about what he is truly saying. From my perspective, this source portrays America as a place that does not acknowledge the hard past that this land was made on, which I find to be very true and accurate.
Kendi defines America as a country built on denial, while in Amanda Gorman’s poem “¨The Hill We Climb”, delivered at Biden’s 2021 inauguration, focused similarly on the imperfectness of America and how this country is still unfinished. According to both Kendi and Gorman America is imperfect in many aspects, one being the neglect of past historical events and the repetition we see in our current day. The details found in Gormans poem emphasize the value of acknowledging the true reality of the US and how we must grow as a nation from leaving things undone.
”It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it” (Gorman).
These powerful lines explain the exact link between Kendi´s’ essay and Gormans poem. In this quote, Gorman is saying that while being American is a lot of things, a main attribute is acknowledging the past and how to reconstruct it. In other words, Gorman believes that accepting the truth of the US is how we can truly grow as a country.
Likewise, Gorman describes America as a country that is still a work in progress while
Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who published his article ¨ My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant¨ as of june 22nd, 2011 describes America with a similar stance. Vargas, is a Filipino journalist who illegally immigrated to the US, which is shown to be revealed to himself later in his life. Vargas writes about his confusion and worry on being considered a ¨true¨ American after discovering how he was undocumented. In his article, Vargas describes America as a place where you should not be required to have documents in order to prove to be an authentic American. According to both Gorman and Vargas, America’s flawed ways and true reality is what people like Vargas are facing, the harsh reality of the US´s imperfectness. ¨This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.¨ (Vargas)
This quote is a powerful example that explains how although a majority of Vargas life was in America, making him feel truly American, America’s damaged system makes him not seen as that by the US. In other words, Vargas believes that being American is more than your status, but what you believe makes you American.
In my opinion, America means acknowledging the past to be able to better the future. My experience as Muslim young women helps me see “America” as place of much needed work in many, many aspsects. I find the arguments outlined above to be true. America is in need of desperate help in rebuilding its nation to create a much better and sustainable country. To say what American literature is, it can be defined as literature that speaks truth about what America is. For example, the overarching events of US history, present events, and what it overall means to be American. For instance, in the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas highlights the importance of recognizing one’s privilege in a place like the US, and in order to do so, having to acknowledge the US´s past and its connection to current issues.
Kendi, Ibram X. “Denial Is the Heartbeat of America.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 11 Jan. 2021,
Gorman, Amanda. “The Hill We Climb: the Amanda Gorman Poem That Stole the Inauguration Show.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Jan. 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/20/amanda-gorman-poem-biden-inauguration-transcript
Vargas, Jose Antonio. “My Life As an Undocumented Immigrant.” New York Times Magazine, 22 June, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Walker Books, 2017.