Zebra Misc

Research: What Is American Identity and Why Does It Matter?

Statue of Liberty. (Photo licensed by Adobe to The Zebra Press, LLC)
Statue of Liberty. (Photo licensed by Adobe to The Zebra Press, LLC)

By Robert Griffith

Since Americans don’t have an identical ethnic, national, religious, or linguistic background, it’s complicated to define the term American identity. Throughout history, being an American meant sharing a national culture founded on religious, ethnic, and racial concepts. That changed. We went back to basics; understanding that America is a melting pot that merges different cultures into a new breed. This is a nation that’s not founded on a single culture. It’s founded on ideas.

Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish economist, used the term American Creed in his 1944 study of race relations. It’s a collection of ideals that include the rule of law, equality, freedom, hard work, and individualism. This remained the central idea that formed the American identity.

Why Does the American Identity Matter?

The most important reason for understanding American identity is related to white racial identification. It may not be prevalent in U.S. political attitudes, but it’s still an issue. A survey from 2012 asked white respondents to indicate if whiteness represented the way they thought of themselves most of the time, as opposed to identifying themselves as Americans. One fifth of the survey’s white respondents said that they preferred the term white to American when identifying themselves.

The same survey asked its respondents to discuss the importance of having a white political candidate in elections. Those who mostly identified themselves as white were most likely to respond that having white candidates on the ballot was important. This type of fragmentation of the society is a direct threat to American democracy. That’s why we have to clarify the concept of American identity, so we can achieve greater consensus around what being a citizen of the country means.

When writing essays for education, college students will be politically correct: most of them explain that the concept of American identity is founded on the principles of liberty and equality. But on a more private level, ethnic, racial, and religious nuances interfere with one’s perception of their nation.

According to the estimations of the U.S. Census Bureau, the USA will be a majority-minority country by 2045. The proto-typical white American is getting older, as the country’s citizenship is becoming less religious and less white. As a result, it’s time for us all to understand the concept of American identity in a more inclusive way, which is closer to the country’s immigrant roots.

How to Analyze American Identity

When completing a paper essay on American identity, it’s difficult to come across a useful site that offers valuable information from research and surveys. The problem is that most national surveys don’t ask meaningful questions regarding racial identity to white Americans. They focus on national origins, trying to reveal how European backgrounds are incorporated into different political outlooks and social identities. Scholars have started including the issue on white identity only recently in their surveys. That’s the kind of data you want to include in academic research. You can find inspiration for an essay on American identity in sample papers, but try to focus on studies and surveys. Using an automated writing tool may help you plan the paper’s structure. However, remember that academic papers have to be 100% unique and based on your own opinions.

When analyzing the concept of American identity, focus on these aspects:

  • There’s no such thing as a universal identity, especially for an omni-cultural country such as the USA.
  • Everyone has their own understanding of what it means to be American today, as citizens come from different religious, ethnic, ideological, and geographical backgrounds.
  • Explaining the concept of American identity calls for an inclusive approach based on solidarity.
  • Depending on how you discuss the concept, an academic essay may require arguments on modern-day immigration and immigrant policies. How do they fit within the common understanding of American identity?

Who Are We?

The conclusion from modern-day surveys is clear: the American identity is formed from a multitude of backgrounds. The new concept of national identity is omni-cultural, and it encompasses people from different religious, ethnicities, ideologies, and geographies.

The efforts of modern and historical political leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Bobby Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln, were directed towards eradication of white supremacy. There have been some set-backs recently, but we’re slowly returning to the American Creed foundation of the nation’s identity.

BIO: Robert Griffith likes to call himself a citizen of the world. Without a permanent address, he aims to live in a different setting each year. Robert loves history, writing, and long discussions on forgotten topics. His blog posts are a blend of those interests.

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