I'm a brown American.
No amount of telling me I'm not brown, black, yellow, or purple, and that I should start acting like an American, will change that.
And how dare anyone try to take away a piece of my identity.
I get it. People want to see unity so they think if we could just "not see color" maybe there would be more unity and peace. The problem is, unity doesn't come from erasing identities and conflict--it comes from recognizing each others experiences as real and valid, feeling the same hurts and coming together in love.
I want anyone reading this who has posted the below image, or expressed or thought similar sentiments that I'm not trying to pick a fight. I'm not trying to step on your pride or accuse your intentions of wrong-doing. I would ask, however, that in lieu of making assumptions about the non-white experience, you listen to your non-white fellow citizens. The news is full of protesters expressing frustration and hurt and pain. Listen to them. Believe their experiences. You won't achieve unity by telling us our experiences and identities aren't real. Empathy is the first step towards unity.
I keep seeing memes and images telling non-white Americans, like the one above, they are not such, and that we should just start acting like Americans (whatever that means). When I see this, I don't see unity. I see privileged people denying my experience even exists.
Whether you choose to recognize or accept it or not, my experience as a brown American is different than yours as a white American.
A quick note on privilege: Having privilege doesn't mean everything in your life is peaches and cream. It simply means there are inherent opportunities or experiences that are a given based on certain aspects of your identity. And, a person can be privileged in one area but not another.
For example, because I am female I don't have male privilege, thus my emotions are constantly doubted or deemed irrational because women are "just emotional" (only one example). But, I grew up in a fairly stable middle-class household so I don't really know what it's like to struggle financially. And while I am brown and that comes with a list of problems, because I am "ambiguously brown," I have a certain amount of privilege not attributed to black citizens or others with a more obvious grouping. We all have privileges, we all have difficulties.
So, yes, I am a brown American. And, no, you can't take that away from me. Because I am brown, I understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of racial slurs. Because I am brown, where I'm from becomes of vital importance to white strangers. Because I am brown, white men have wanted to date the "exotic girl" without caring about the real me.
I don't want to make it sound like being brown has just been a train wreck of bad experiences. I am proud of my identity--Ambiguously Brown Esoteric Writing Woman. But bad experiences or no, it is a part of my identity and America's inability to accept it won't change that. My brownness is a part of me, and you can't take that away from me.
Now let's listen to the Ella and Louis version of, "They can't take that away from me."