Finding Your Roots is a show that has quickly become one of my obsessions. Ever since I saw the episode with Stephen King as one of the guests, I have watched every episode and even requested the three seasons and re-watched them all over again. It’s one of those shows that I think everyone should watch even if the celebrities on the show aren’t ones that you necessarily support. Because it’s not about what these people have done to make them famous, it’s about finding out who their ancestors are and what they did in their lives and how they got to America. It’s a wholesome, comforting show, one that everyone can watch. It makes me think about my own roots and what it means to call someplace home.
I have one parent who is from another country. To me, this is both a source of pride and resentment. A source of pride because there are a lot of Americans who can’t even claim to have visited another country, let alone have a relative from a distant land. But it’s also a source of resent because everybody else will forever associate you with that country even if you feel and are American and only see that other country as a place you enjoy visiting and not to live forever.
Some questions and statements that have been said to me include:
- Have you ever been to England?
- When are you going back?
- Would you like to live there sometime?
- What is it like?
- Do you have a dual citizenship?
- You’re mom’s been here all this time and never got an American citizenship? (As if America’s the only place to have a citizenship and how dare anyone live here without getting one eventually)
The statement that takes the cake though was about five years ago. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but she suddenly told me that I wasn’t really an American.
“What do you mean, I’m not an American?” I said, indignant. “I was born and raised here, my dad’s an American. I’m an American.”
“But your mom’s not American, that makes you not a full American.”
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but this stuck with me for a long time. Was I not an American? I spent the entirety of my life celebrating American holidays; deep within me, I felt a sense of pride for having the American spirit and proud. I couldn’t think of being anybody else than who I was as an American. And yet, people can just make a suggestion that I’m not really an American just because both of my parents didn’t grow up here.
Yes, I’m an American. And yes, I have family who are from another country. Without my roots I wouldn’t have become what I am today. I probably wouldn’t even have existed if my foreign relatives made different choices. But the place I call home is rooted firmly in my American upbringing. I have the same hopes and dreams, the same sense of connection to my homeland as any other American. I just happen to have more recent immigrants in my family than others. And to me, that is just as valid.