I’m an Atheist, a pacifist, and a public educator. I believe every human being has a worth and a purpose. I’m white, but not the WASP-y kind. The local NPR station is my primary source of news. I like taking walks and eating sushi. I hate asparagus and exercise (except yoga) (and taking walks).
I prefer cats over dogs and I like beer more than wine. My favorite color to look at is purple; my favorite color to wear is blue, or green I guess. I prefer to wear my hair long but I don’t like wearing long sleeves.
I believe that capitalism is ultimately evil and that socialism is the ideal, although perhaps an unattainable one. I identify as a heterosexual female.
I’m also an American, because I was born in America. But I’m not sure I can actually call myself “American.” Not anymore, at least.
Yesterday marked the 100th year since Puerto Ricans were “gifted” with United States citizenship. On the way to see my boyfriend yesterday, on that local NPR station I just mentioned, I heard an interview with a Puerto Rican woman living in the United States because there is not work for her on the island. She’s the granddaughter of the first democratically elected president of Puerto Rico – or something like that, I can’t remember her grandpa’s exact political role – and, in her words, feels herself to be a “member of the diaspora.”
Diaspora. A word I learned in college, and maybe the only thing I learned in college. Here’s how Google defines it:
I learned this term in an Indian Literature course, taught by my favorite professor – an Indian woman living in America, herself a member of the Indian diaspora. At the time, I thought of it as a neutral, or perhaps positive thing; how wonderful that people of all cultural and ethnic heritages can find or create communities in any area of the world! I’m not sure if this is how my professor presented it to us or if this is how my naive 20-year-old brain chose to understand it, but my assumption is that it’s the latter.
Today, my 28-year-old brain (which is still certainly naive, but not as much as it was back in the college years) understands that diaspora is not positive, nor is it neutral. Although it is crucial for people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds to find community wherever they choose to live, I understand now that diaspora is not the product of personal choice. Diaspora is a reaction to expulsion, when individuals seek asylum in touches of their homeland by creating makeshift cultural orbs to safely express themselves in like-minded company because the circumstances of their arrival in whatever geographical location they happen to find themselves has brought with it a sensation of displacement, of longing, of seeking something that is only available at home, when home is simply not an option.
The Puerto Rican woman interviewed on my local NPR station did not want to be living in America. She did not want her American citizenship – “we never asked for this” were the words she used to describe the 1917 “gift” that Puerto Rico received from the States.
I’m not sure I want mine anymore, either. Why would I? Culturally, I am not an American – just scroll back up to the top of the post and read my identifying characteristics. Aside from the part about beer, I’m not the kind of person for whom this country is comfortable or even coherent at times. This isn’t “my” America; or at least, it isn’t an America where I am free to fully be “me.”
Does this make me a member of some diasporic movement within my own country? I don’t think so, at least not yet. To call myself a member of the diaspora would be an injustice to those whose homelands were ripped from under them, or for whom their homelands ceased to be a sustainable – or safe – home.
And can an individual even be a member of the diaspora while still physically residing in their homeland? I don’t know, but there are more than six million native peoples living in the United States who might have some insight about that.
I want and deserve a home, because I am a human with a worth and a purpose. So do you, because so are you. And so do “they,” because so are “they.” Yet globally, the sensation of being “home” is one that fewer and fewer of us seem to be able to declare that we feel. Are we heading toward a world – or at least, an America – where we are all in some way members of the diaspora?
I think so, and I think that’s something we all need to be very, very concerned about.