Letter: Reader responds to, “What does it mean to be an American?”

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What it means to be an American:

If you asked me this question five years ago, I would have confidently told you that I am proud to be an American citizen, that the hardships my family faced in order for me to live in a safe, and comfortable environment were worth it in the end. I would have told you that I wished everyone could experience the same wonderful opportunities I had after being born. 

Today, I can tell you with certainty that I am, in fact, ashamed to call myself an American. Our country has severely degraded in a matter of five years. In five, short years, I faced xenophobia, sexism, and multiple other forms of prejudice. In 1,825 days, I realized that I was considered inferior because of my skin color. I learned to acknowledge that the “flaws” in my genetics needed to be hidden in order to ensure my safety. I accepted that I could no longer freely express my opinions, and stand up for the racist attacks on my asian community. In a matter of months, a pandemic spread globally and became the top news in every city, country, and continent. However, what I didn’t expect was that COVID-19 would become the reason why I was avoided in the grocery store, and given rude stares everywhere I went. I was no longer a victim, but instead a target because of my skin color.

I had to accept that I was “lesser” because I simply was not white. Because my last name was Lee, and not Smith, people felt the need to tell me to go back to my own country. What country? This was my home from the very beginning; however, I felt alienated, like I was a mere stranger to the place I once called home. I felt like I no longer belonged. Instead of uniting in this time of crisis, the world became divided. Our own president failed to acknowledge the issues in our society, and allowed for these supremacists to gain support, and spread their ideas.

Moral, and simple human beliefs soon became political and controversial topics. Our country turned against one another. Over the course of 43,800 hours, I lost my identity, sense of security, and pride to be an American.

I wish I could tell you that, one day, I’ll take satisfaction and pride in our country but if change fails to occur then my opinion will not, and can not change.

Tori Lee

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