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Are you an authentic American?

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“Police officers giving drivers $204 tickets for not speaking English? It sounds like a rejected Monty Python sketch. Except the grim reality is that it has happened at least 39 times in Dallas since January 2007….All but one of the drivers were Hispanic.”

Reporting on the issue, a New York Times editorial asks the question – is racism alive and kicking in America? If this were a one off incident, it could be an aberration. But 39 times makes it a growing pattern of injustice.

So how does one question who or who is not an American? Does it have to do with language, race, ethnicity, how long one has been in the United States – or is it about the more legal aspect of possessing citizenship.

Recently, an incredible achievement by Meb Keflezighi’s, winner of Men’s NYC Marathon, kicked off a number of doubts about whether this is truly an “American” achievement, or one imported in from outside.

“Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.”

Comments from a CNBC Sports Business Reporter who half apologized in a post the next morning.

“Frankly I didn’t account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi’s running experience came as a U.S. citizen. I never said he didn’t deserve to be called American.”

Keflezighi came to the United States when he was 12 from war torn Eritrea. Is that enough time for him to be an American? Ironically the last American to win the marathon was also born in another country – Cuba. Alberto Salazar’s comments from a New York Times article are insightful.

What if Meb’s parents had moved to this country a year before he was born? At what point is someone truly American? Only if your family traces itself back to 1800, will it count?

The same article talks about the racial stereotypes that seem to be emerging to the surface.

“The debate reveals what some academics say are common assumptions and stereotypes about race and sports and athletic achievement in the United States. “Race is still extremely important when you think about athletics,” said David Wiggins, a professor at George Mason University who studies African-Americans and sports. “There is this notion about innate physiological gifts that certain races presumably possess. Quite frankly, I think it feeds into deep-seated stereotypes.

So are we heading for a “clash of cultures” figuring out where the identity of America lies. This Huffington Post article has a few answers.

What’s been missing from our national discourse on “is it race or isn’t it?” is the distinction psychologists and neuroscientists have made for over two decades between conscious and unconscious (often called “explicit vs. implicit”) prejudice

Asking what the difference may have been if over the last 25 years, a half million Englishmen a year had entered the U.S., it wonders if

“what turns up the volume on Americans’ feelings about immigration is that immigrants are not white, English-speakers from London but brown-skinned Mexicans who may not speak our language well and don’t share our Anglo-American culture.”

Demographers now place it around 2040 when whites may be in the minority in the U.S. And so it seems, the best way to deal with this reality may be -

“There’s nothing shameful about admitting that you’re among the majority of Americans – of every color – who has sometimes judged another person on the color his skin instead of the content of his character – and then realized it wasn’t fair. The best antidote to unconscious bias is self-reflection. And the best way to foster that self-reflection is through telling the truth in a way that doesn’t make people defensive or point fingers – except at those who wear their prejudice proudly and deserve our scorn.”

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

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