Dear Uncle Sam,
I am an American and I am proud to be an American. But when asked, I don't call myself an American, and neither do many people when they are asked what they are. Why? Because being the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, I wear my family's home country on my sleeve and take more pride in being a Dominican more than an American. Heck, during the World Baseball Classic, I wrapped myself in the Dominican Republic flag as the team defeated Puerto Rico in the final. Does that mean I am not a true American?
Absolutely not. I eat apple pie, Cheerios, and drink my Ovaltine in the cold New England winter, but more importantly, I was born in this country, grew up in this country, sang the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and even had a Chevrolet when I was younger. Out of my upbringing in the United States came a detachment from my culture, but also a discovery of a mutual love between the US and the DR.
Known as America's past-time, baseball is the singular gateway for success in the Dominican Republic. Children eat, sleep, and breathe baseball and on the dirt roads of the countryside, you will see kids playing with a broomstick and milk cartons or a bottle-cap and a tree branch. Baseball is life in Dominican Republic, as in other Latin American countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. It is the hope of these children to one day make it to the MLB so they can provide a fruitful life for their families, a life out of poverty and a life into freedom.
Baseball has now fallen off with the rise of pro football in the United States, but baseball is forever my sport because while I assimilated into the United States, baseball was the sole connection between the DR and the US. But unfortunately, this connection has somewhat weakened.
During the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, award-winning artist and New York native Marc Anthony sang 'God Bless America.' As his passionate voice sang a song that brings harmony to the nation in good and bad, people decided to ruin this occasion by saying the following:
And here’s the clincher…
Correct me if I am wrong, but if you are born in the United States of America, grew up in the United States of America, and still reside in the United States of America, aren't you a true American? Is this Twitter user insinuating that because Anthony is not white, like many Americans, that he is not an American? Is it because Anthony is bi-lingual, as are many Americans? Or is it because Anthony identifies himself as a Hispanic, as many Americans do?
Does this mean I am not American? Apparently not. Apparently every Latino is Mexican.
Anthony is a true American because he displays the American story. From the streets of New York, Anthony used his voice as a means to earn success as a singer, but he did it starting at an underground house music act in New York. His career started here in the United States and while he may sing in Spanish, and be the top selling tropical artist of all-time, he is an American. If you don't believe me, look at his Wikipedia page. They call him American too.
It is 2013, and yet this notion that you have to look a certain way to "fit in" as an American still lives on. Here's the sad truth: When I visit Dominican Republic, the natives there look at me as if I am not a Dominican because I don't speak fluent Spanish nor do I possess the same cultural attitude because I was raised in the United States. I think many people from different backgrounds can relate to this.
The United States of America is a country based on unity, freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. Baseball provides all of that and to display such ignorance to an American, singing a song asking God to continue blessing this great country, during the all-star game of the American sport, let it serve as a challenge to all of us that racism and discrimination did not end with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier nor Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech.
It is still alive today, but we as a country refuse to talk about it. Ask the family of Trayvon Martin. Ask Marc Anthony. Ask President Barack Obama.