Every Fourth of July, when the Internet (or at least my corner) is abuzz about the hypocrisy of the United States celebrating a history of violence, war, and discrimination, I feel a little guilty for enjoying the day.
Like so many second-generation immigrant children I know, I came of age in the 90′s when multiculturalism was celebrated before immigrants became a cultural and political enemy. Unlike many of my South Asian peers, my mom, a public school teacher, embraced the superficial parts of American culture while remaining conservative in most other ways. She always made sure we had a Christmas tree, an Easter basket, a Halloween costume. She helped our family turn traditionally religious holidays into cultural ones. We left kulfi and cookies for Santa Claus, I once wore a sari for Halloween, and she came to my school every year to teach my classmates about Indian culture.
As I grew older, I learned more about problems with U.S. history —of genocide, civil rights battles, and internment camps. But I couldn’t shake that American part of myself. While I love visiting India, where I am surrounded by people who look like me, I always feel a little out of place. I always knew I could never be with someone who wasn’t South Asian and who didn’t understand being “othered.” My partner speaks fluent Bengali and is a strict vegetarian, but also embraces this country’s entrepreneurial spirit.
So on this coming fourth day in July, I will wear red, white, and blue, I attend a barbecue and I sing “Proud to be an American.” Because I am one and will always be.