When it comes to the topic of America, some people think about violence.  There have been so many shootings, and attacks within the country, that when outsiders look at us that is all that they see.  According to Ibram Kendi, “American” means the denial that our country is flawed.  Kendi states in source 3, “We must stop the heartbeat of denial and revive America to the thumping beat of truth. The carnage has no chance of stopping until the denial stops. This is not who we are must become, in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol: This is precisely who we are. And we are ashamed. And we are aggrieved at what we’ve done, at how we let this happen. But we will change. We will hold the perpetrators accountable. We will change policy and practices. We will radically root out this problem. It will be painful. But without pain there is no healing.”  In other words, Kendi believes that in order for America to change and to truly be free, we need to change the way that we respond to situations.  Saying that a school shooting,  for example,  is “unamerican”  is not going to help people realize that we need good gun control.  Instead, telling people that we acknowledge what has happened, and will work towards doing better would have a greater impact on people.  

Source 2, a speech given by Amanda Gorman, expands on the argument of source 3, highlighting more flaws of America.  This source in particular explains some of the problems and obstacles that African Americans face on the daily.  Gorman says “O, let my land be a land where Liberty.  Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, but opportunity is real, and life is free, equality is in the air we breathe.  (There’s never been equality for me,  Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free”).”  This quote is explaining how unfair the United States is, even though it is labeled as free, many people, especially people of color are being targeted everyday for no reason other than their skin color.  This is expanding on source 3 because source 3 talks about violence throughout the nation while source 2 talks about violence against a group of people.  The information found in Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” speech reinforce the need for reform throughout the entire country. 

Source 5 is an essay written by Jose Antonio Vargas.  In this essay he talks about his personal experience being undocumented, and the stuggles behind it.  Vargas writes “From the moment I wrote my first article for the student paper, I convinced myself that having my name in print — writing in English, interviewing Americans — validated my presence here.”  Here he is talking about when he found out he was undocumented.  He felt like he had to prove himself in order to live in the United States.  Likewise to source 2, Vargas explains how he has to be cautious about who he surrounds himself with since they could have reported him, and ultimately got him deported.  Source 2 highlights the problems facing African Americans in America, while source 5 highlights the problems that undocumented people are facing in America.  Vargas has a different perspective on America because he is forced to.  He cannot just live his life the way that he wants to, he has to be aware of everything around him.  Life is different for him, and he knows that.  He just wants to make the best of it and bring awareness to this ongoing issue.  

In my opinion, America means different things.  It is so diverse with so many different people, you cannot just give it one definition.  I think that it means something different for everybody since everyone has different experiences.  I would say that America means loss, violence, happiness, and home.  My gender and ethnicity affect my experience in America because I see the injustices being made against us everyday.  There are so many bad people in this country that have ill intentions.  I find the arguments above to be truthful.  This country has many flaws that not everybody sees, and that is part of the problem.  American literature is really in everything.  In the issues of our country, in the speeches that we hear, even in books that we read.  It surrounds us.  It incorporates so many different things that I couldn’t give it a singular definition.  The Great Gatsby shows higher and lower class, There There gives a story on Native Ameircans, and THUG tells a story on something that constantly happens every day.  Something in common is all of them are guns.  Khalil gets shot with a gun, Octavio and his Gang bring guns to the Powwow, and Wilson shoots Gatsby with a gun.  This correlates with all of the gun violence that we have in this country.  Being a young person in America is eye opening.  We are able to see all of these issues and problems that are in our country that adults are too busy to realize.  It is interesting because we are the future of the country, and can actually do something to change everything for the better.

Denial is the Heartbeat of America by Ibram Kendi


The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman 


My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas 


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Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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