Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Does it Mean to be an American?

Here are some facts gathered from our last census that speaks volumes about what it really means to be an American. I LOVE the Puerto Ricans squeaking in at #15! I had NO idea! Enjoy!
America’s Top 15 Ancestry Groups**
German 42.8 million
Irish 30.5 million
African-American 24.9 million
English 24.5 million
Mexican 18.4 million
Italian 15.6 million
Polish 9.0 million
French 8.3 million
American Indian 7.9 million
Scottish 4.9 million
Dutch 4.5 million
Norwegian 4.5 million
Scots-Irish 4.3 million
Swedish 4.0 million
Puerto Rican 2.6 million
**Source: US Census Bureau, Census 2000 special tabulation

2010 is the Year of the Census. This is the year that a group of enumerators divide up the people of the nation and count them, one-by-one. U.S. Marshalls used to do the counting, which must have been an interesting experience in the 1800s. Later, literate individuals were hired to collect this information by hand, going from house-to-house. Apparently the term "literate" was open to interpretation, based on some of the resulting census enumerations.

Today, census data is carefully guarded and protected with enormous fines and serious consequences for violating those laws. Individual census data is protected for 72 years, which means we will finally get detailed access to the 1940 census data in 2012. Census data is used to determine how much political representation each state will receive at the national level, so each and every soul must be counted. There is even one evening that is dedicated to searching for homeless individuals and counting them while they sleep during the wee hours.

I think one of the most fabulous things we learn from the census data is how diverse America really is. It is the fruit of sheer ignorance, in my opinion, when I hear someone comment on someone born in another country or of a different race and suggest that they "leave" because they don't belong in America.

To say that someone does not belong in America because of their former nationality or their religion is a sad state of affairs. I want to look them in the eye and say, Have you ever attended a naturalization ceremony? Have you ever heard that thick accented voice pledging allegiance to the flag, and singing the national anthem? Have you ever seen the tears in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as they accept their certificate of naturalization, and could finally proudly state that they are no longer THEY, but are just as much WE as we are AMERICANS, and citizens of the United States of America? There is very little that echoes patriotism so loudly.

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