What Do You Mean by ‘Real Americans’?

What Do You Mean by ‘Real Americans’?
Nick BrothersThe Free Weekly Managing Editor

Nick Brothers
The Free Weekly Managing Editor

Just about every American politician uses the phrase, “real Americans.” I’ve heard it plenty this election season, and most recently at the first presidential debate. This phrase irks me.

The idea of a “real American” isn’t a new concept by any means. It was often used by the segregationist governor George Wallace of Alabama, a Democrat, in the 1960s. The phrase was especially prevalent during this year’s Republican National Convention, most notably used as a rhetorical device by Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty during his speech. Donald Trump uses it all the time. Trump’s whole platform and voter base supposedly consists of “real Americans.”

When politicians — typically GOP members — use this phrase, more often than not they are usually referring to some sort of idealized citizen who holds the so-called “traditional American values” of hard work, a Christian God, family, hunting and fishing and patriotism, who likely resides in Small Town, USA, and is probably… well, white.

As it turns out, most Americans are white, Christian, don’t have college degrees and live in the South or Midwest. But they only make up 20 percent of the electorate, according to Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com.

But what does that phrase really mean? It’s explicitly implied when politicians use the phrase “real Americans” it’s meant to exclude urban populations, the elites of the east coast and the hippies of the west coast. I find that it also implies that somehow, everyone who doesn’t fit that fetishized concept of what a “real American” is are fakes or worth less than those other “real American” people. Who are they to say all the people who don’t fit that image aren’t “real” Americans?

It’s a microagression, which are everyday, subtle insults targeted purely at a person’s marginalized group membership. In this example, implying that one group of US citizens are more worthy of the title “American” than others is problematic and insulting to everyone else who makes up the population. That kind of pandering to people who claim they’re “real Americans” only deepens the sense of entitlement I think so many people of privilege have.

Here’s the deal, dammit. We are all realAmericans — okay, maybe it’s not so cut and dry in the eyes of the law and immigration, but that’s beside the point — and we can be whoever and can live however we choose, because that’s what being an American is about.

It’s my opinion being a “real American” is about respecting, but also healthily questioning authority and your government, engaging in civics, loving and accepting your neighbor regardless of their race, status, gender or creed, and serving your community. That’s it. Or even not it, if someone so chooses. But that’s pretty lame of them.

A person could be a biracial, Spanish-speaking Buddhist transgender webpage designer for an adult toy company who was born in Hawaii and lives in Portland, Oregon. Guess what, they’re a bonafide, real American, and shouldn’t let anyone tell them otherwise. It also means the rootin’ tootin’ cowboys and cattle wrasslers are equally as real. I think that’s what’s beautiful about our country, and sorta why we established the United States in the first place.

If we really want to get into it, the only real Americans are native Americans. Otherwise, everyone else here are a hodgepodge of descendants and immigrants from Europeans, Africans, Latinos, Asians, Middle-Easterners, Indians, Pacific Islanders… the list goes on. If we’re going by the rules established by the constitution, anyone born here or moved here and applied for citizenship is a real American. But that’s boring and unsatisfactory, isn’t it?

But alright. In end, I get it. It’s not a huge deal in bigger picture. It’s really just a pandering rhetorical tactic to gain votes from small town Americans, who often feel overlooked and marginalized in media. But I do think it’s worth it’s while to call out things like this, even if they’re just words. Just, y’know, different strokes for different folks, and all those folks are absolutely real Americans, too, even if they’re weird and different from whatever “normal” or “real” is supposed to be.

Just something I wanted to get off my unreal chest.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary