On Marc Anthony's 'God Bless America' - More Melanin Doesn't Mean Less American
And on what grounds is his award-winning voice being dubbed unpatriotic and un-American? Oh, you know, on the color of his skin. That’s right, on his race.
Here’s just a few of the racist tweets posted just moments after Anthony begins singing:
Brian Edwards (@Dusboy7): Another disgrace Marc Anthnoy singing god bless America. Is he even an American citizen?
Tyler Pounds (@tylerpounds): Welcome to america where god bless america is sung at our national pastime by a mexican
Kris Rieder (@kriederkid): Shouldn't an AMERICAN be singing God Bless America? #getoutofmycountry #allstargame
But this bizarre moment of fear and anger over how a “Mexican” or “Spanish” person would dare sing America’s song was especially striking for me. Not only did it highlight the very real issue of race in this country, but it also illuminated a national concern (and anger) over nationality. For Marc Anthony was not only raced as being “Mexican,” but also as being anything but American. It’s almost as if the color of your skin, as long as it deviates from whatever the U.S. considers “white,” marks you as a perpetual foreigner and alien.
And that’s exactly what happened to Marc Anthony.
Never mind the fact that Marc Anthony was born and raised in New York; or that his Puerto Rican ancestors were U.S. citizens as well. Because all that matters is that Anthony didn’t “look” American, right? And if he doesn’t “look” the part, then, hell, that strips him of his American-ness.
And if that’s true, here’s what that means:
Not only does this country race its Hispanic residents as “illegals,” or its Muslims as terrorists, or its blacks as criminals, but it simultaneously marks these individuals as stateless people.
This realization brought me back to a few moments I had this past weekend:
I was working for a compost and recycling group at a music festival in Oregon when I was stopped by very drunk man and asked, “What are you?” as he pointed to my skin. His friend, who also happened to be very drunk, chimed in and asked, “Yeah, yeah, where you made from?”
What these two drunkards meant to ask was my ethnicity. But their questions made me feel as if, due to the color of my skin, it wasn’t possible for me to be American, that I was, at least in that particular moment, potentially stateless. (Despite the fact that I was born and raised in the U.S.)
This feeling only escalated when a different man told me in passing that I looked like “the real” Pocahontas (I had my hair in a braid). (Some of you might be saying, ‘Oh you can’t get more American than Native American.’ But, sorry bucko, many indigenous tribes do not consider themselves American (and for good reason), and therefore calling me Pocahontas does not refer to me as being American, but rather a member of an alienated and offended group of people.)
The idea that people in this country feel comfortable enough to sum strangers up according to the color of their skin, and thereby imply a sense of foreignness, a lack of American-ness or a state of statelessness is absolutely mind-blowing. And, more than anything, it’s completely illogical.
I’m tired of having to tell strangers what they mean to inquire about is my ethnicity, and that asking where I’m from is loaded with the assumption that I'm a foreigner. I’m tired of saying that (surprise!) I’m from the U.S.. But most of all I’m exhausted of being profiled as something potentially un-American simply because my skin color is brown.
(And poor Marc - he took this at a national level.)
This exhaustion comes from my deep discomfort when strangers assume I’m anything but American, and consequently anything but white. Because here’s what those strangers don’t know: I may get my brownness from my Mexican mother, but I get my culture from my white American father and my life here in the U.S.. I am as much brown as I am white, if not more of the latter.
Though some may not think I “look” American, America is all I know. And to only recognize my brownness and therefore dismiss my whiteness, would be to dismiss exactly what makes me me.
When strangers ask where I’m from, like the strangers who assumed Marc Anthony is from Mexico, they should know that they are actively dismissing the very qualities that make Marc and I American.
Here’s my advice to those who would genuinely like to know why an individual might look the way they do: Ask what you really mean to ask. You don’t want to know where they’re from, but what their ethnicity(s) is.
It’s really that simple: “Excuse me, what’s your ethnicity?”
“My mother is from Mexico, and my father is as white as they can get. He’s from Nebraska.”