ENG 122 English Composition II
August 26, 2013
To Hyphenate or Not To Hyphenate
America is one of the most diversely populated countries in the world. This is why it is called a melting pot. According to the 2010 US Census brief, The Two or More Races Population: 2010, “the population reporting multiple races (9.0 million) grew by 32.0 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared with those who reported a single race, which grew by 9.2 percent,” (US Census Bureau, 2010); thus leaving America as the largest hyphenated nation. The term "hyphenated America" is not something new to the United States of America. This term has a very long lineage in American history dating back to the late 1800s and was typically used to identify a person that was only a resident of the United States but was not born into the country or held citizenship. Today, people are using this hyphenated status to no longer show their allegiance to their countries of birth, but to represent their heritage, such as: Hispanic- or Mexican-American, Latin-American, African-American also Native-American. Researchers, activists, and even presidents, have shown their dislike for the use of "hyphenated Americans." Research will show that people feel the hyphen should be dropped and those people who are naturalized and born American are just that, American. The research will also show there is no need to separate or treat those who choose to hyphenate as separate groups or entities, and also the toll the hyphenated identity has taken on children today. But first, one must know who an American is.
To be American, according to Merriam-Webster (2013), there are three definitions of American; "first an American is an American Indian of North America or South America. Also, an American is a native or inhabitant of North America or South America. Finally, an American is a citizen of the United States." For all intents and purposes, when referencing “American” or “America” this will mean those residents of the United States of America who have citizenship through either birth or by means of naturalization.
Today the United States of America is a melting pot of hundreds of cultures and races. There are Italians, Greek, and various Hispanic and Latino cultures that make up the diversity in the United States of America. There are Africans, Palestinians and several Asian cultures that all reside in the United States of America. These cultures and races are constructed from generations of those that are American born, yet they are the people who are considered hyphenated Americans. These are the races of people that have children, whose children now having children that are all born in the United States of America, making them American first.
Racial motivation has been a concern when it comes to hyphenating the American for quite some time. Over the course of history, racial motivations have come in many shapes and forms. People use race as a weapon and reason not to like someone or a group of people. People use race and stereotypes or stigmas that follow various races to not hire a person for a particular job. Using hyphens to classify or introduce an American by their race offers another weapon for those people who are racist and use the variety of stereotypes against their fellow Americans.
Identifying Americans by their race first lessens their American identity. By saying that a woman of Hispanic descent is Hispanic-American states she is Hispanic before she is American, even though she may be a seventh generation American [born]. Stating such can place a racial stigma on her, the very stigmas that tend to follow people of the Hispanic race. For example, Tanya Golash-Boza (2006) quoted, "Many people in the United States view Hispanics as poor, uneducated, unclean, illegal aliens and prone to teenage pregnancy." No one wants to have stigmas attached to them simply because many of their races are "known" for being a certain way.