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Who Are We America and Who Are We Becoming

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By Janice S. Ellis, PhD, Kansas City, MO —

This is the first of a series of articles about the identity crisis confronting America here at home and on the world stage.

Who are we, America? Who are we becoming? If those are not questions many of us have asked ourselves, audibly, during and since the election, it is difficult to imagine that these questions have not crossed our minds. Whatever one might think about the things that were said and done during the 2016 Presidential primary and general election campaigns—whether you approve or disapprove—there are real reasons to be concerned about America’s collective identity.

Do we still have a collective, unified, identity as a nation? There are some who may think we never have had a real sense of oneness, that that proverbial melting pot has only existed in a fantasy of what many of us have simply hoped that America is or would come to be.

Melting pot? Is that the impression you had during this election with such open unabashed and unashamed expressions and vitriol toward entire groups of people who do not look like us, worship like us, dress like us, but who are no less Americans? Groups of people who have not only help build and made America what it is but who continually help to sustain and keep America.

Who are we America and who are we becoming?

Who are we America and who are we becoming Photo Credit:

Who are we America and who are we becoming?

During this election, what happened to the cherished and prized notion that America is great because it is a melting pot? What happened to that great phrase from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, New Colossus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” that has become such a mantra in American history? The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus wrote the poem to be auctioned off at a fundraiser to finance the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty sits. The poem had been forgotten until the plaque was placed at the base of the statute years later. The only inscription on the Statue of Liberty itself is on the tablet in her left hand, which says JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776), the day the United States adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Whether we reflect on the plaque or the inscription of that great national symbol of liberty, what does it really mean? What has it come to mean?

Who are we America and who are we becoming? Those are questions which should concern us all.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis
Janice S. Ellis, PhD, is an award-winning author. Her book, From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book sellers. She has written a column for newspapers, radio, and now online, where she analyzes educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. You can see her writings on this website.


  1. ricardo g says:

    I stumbled onto your blog and your question “Who Are We America and Who Are We Becoming” is a great one and I presume an invitation to others who have different thoughts than yours. The answer to your question is unknowable but I though you might want to hear some thoughts from someone who voted for Trump.

    Trump didn’t win it, Clinton lost it….. for a number of reasons. You talk about “such open unabashed and unashamed expressions and vitriol toward entire groups of people……as though Trump had a monopoly on hate and divisiveness. You seem to forget the constant reminder from the Democrats that anybody who doesn’t think like a Democrat is; Deplorable, Racist, Islamophobic, Misogynist, Homophobic, Xenophobic, etc. The leaked emails are validation of how divisive the Democratic party is. There are a lot people who didn’t like Trump but saw how hateful Clinton and the Democrats could be and picked the lesser of two evils.

    Another reason is one of the top three problems in the US are the 10M – 20M illegals that are in our country (the others two are US Government debt, and race relations). We have immigration laws on our books and if you don’t enforce the laws it’s anarchy. So I am Xenophobic if I want the immigration laws enforced? Question, name one developed country that allows illegals to stay? FWIW, I am for open borders but, pragmatically you can’t have open borders and a welfare state. Get rid of the welfare state and opening the borders is the best way to improve the standard of living for all..

    Finally, the Trump vote was a rejection of the totally biased media and academia. How many media outlets endorsed Trump and how did they miss the outcome of the election? If your answer is: I can’t believe how anyone could anyone vote for Trump, you are hopelessly lost.

  2. Willie Anderson says:

    I think America’s collective identity bi-polar in nature and the most recent election only magnified the symptoms of our country’s ailment. We would like to think that President Obama’s election was a natural progression in our journey toward a post-racial society. And we also wanted to believe that we as a nation have put ourselves on a trajectory that would logically mean that a woman should and would be our next president. But I think the weakness in our thinking is that race and our reaction to it drives our actions. When President Obama came into office, Mitch McConnell openly avowed to make Obama a one-term president and unleashed the vitriol that had been festering among some of the folks who did not care to see a Black President. Add to that the fact that the media has been made a willing participant in the hijacking of the political process. And when an insurgent candidate like Donald Trump came along, no one gave him much of a chance to win and labeled him a buffoon at worst and a charlatan best. But he already had a built-in constituency from his reality TV days. His skill at entertaining large crowds became must-see TV. So he got free publicity from the media who made money from the ratings boost they got from covering all the hyperbolic lies and false accusations spewing from the lips of Mr. Trump. The fact-checkers simply gave up on trying to correct the gigantic lies he told. And folks whose paychecks hadn’t seen a raise in years were receptive to his snake oil elixir while promising to bring back jobs that will never come back. Trump controlled the media and the message. And his ‘Make America Great Again’ was thinly veiled dog-whistle to rally all the folks who were tired of being neglected and tired of being under-employed. Hillary Clinton was defined as Obama’s 3rd term to tap the anger directed towards Obama, The Washington Establishment, and anyone connected to it. President-Elect Trump for the time being represents newness and change. But by controlling the media, he successfully sold the American public something he can not deliver on. I am cautiously hopeful that with the next Presidential election, we will get it right. This time we forgot to take our meds.

  3. Dr Z says:

    Yes. I have been wondering about this for 2 yrs now since the beginning of the election process. I don’t like my govt or America right now. Don’t know what to do. 72 yr old white male. 40+ years of teaching. Very upset at Trump’s casual horrendous remarks about different groups of people. Especially Hillary. She doesn’t deserve his vitriol. He will never be my president. I feel totally lost in my own country. DrZ

    • Joe Rick says:

      I take and opposite tack on the furture than that of Dr. Z. I am of the same age. Over the last 20 years I have seen our tax monies squandered and as recently as the $220,000,000 sent to the Palestinians the day before the day the Administrations changed. That money could be used in Detroit. I think we have all been blinded for the better part of two decades. I see Donald Trump making major changes that help our citizens. He has started out by empowering unions and business alike.He wants unions to open up training programs and our businesses to use American products. He wants to help our inner cities as well as rural areas. I believe he will do what he says as long as his own Republican Congress does not buck him on his more liberal views. The man has a plan and I believe in him. I am enjoying his deference to the lobbyists and he is free to do what he believes in. I am hopeful.

  4. Larry Biddle says:

    Seems like we are a Tossed Salad…

  5. Larry Biddle says:

    Seems like we have become a Tossed Salad…

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