Why I’ve stopped saying ‘We are a nation of immigrants’
How this innocent-sounding expression makes a white guy like me the ‘real’ American in the room
by Kevin D. Miller
“We are, after all, a nation of immigrants.” It’s a line I’ve used as almost a stock answer to individuals putting down Mexican immigrants living in the United States. My good intention in using this rejoinder was to remind the person that everyone living in the United States, with the exception of Native Americans, resides here only because an earlier family member at some point migrated to this land.
But I’ve stopped using the expression. As innocuous as it sounds, the “nation of immigrants” line is an abbreviated version of the prevailing narrative of national origins that makes white people like me the norm while making others, well, “others.” Without appearing to do so, it subtly shapes my thinking about who is and isn’t a true or real American.
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