“American” is NOT a Nationality

I want to clarify something for once and for all: The term “American” refers to citizenship, not nationality.

On Instagram the other day, an artist I follow made a big post complaining about how she really is half American, half Swedish; her dad is from America, and her mom is from Sweden. Thus, she’s half-and-half, and people need to stop telling her she’s not.

Wrong, sweetie. So, so wrong.

You cannot be half American because “American” is not a nationality. As I stated before, it is simply a term that denotes  citizenship. If you were born (and most likely also raised) in America, then you are American. Why? Because birth in America = citizenship in America. Which means that no birth in America = no citizenship in America — and thus no ability to call yourself American. Period. End of story.

So to the lovely artist I follow on Instagram, there is no such thing as being half American unless you have dual citizenship. And since you clearly don’t have dual citizenship…all the people you’re mad at are right. Sorry :/

But it’s not your fault! Those who aren’t American always have a hard time understanding why “American” refers to citizenship only.

The reason why it does lies in the fact that, unlike almost every other country on earth, 99 percent of American families didn’t actually originate in America, even if the current members were born there. Almost all modern Americans trace their roots back to places like England, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Kenya, Peru, China, Thailand, India, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, and not the United States.

Because of this, and because their families existed in those other countries for much, much longer than they ever have here, every American considers his or her family’s country of origin to also be his or her nationality. (Because, really and truly, where we came from is our nationality.)

For example, if your great, great grandparents came over in 1905 from Ireland, then you are going to call yourself Irish (at least in part). If any others from different countries married into your family throughout the years, then their nationalities are yours, too.

Take a look at me for clarification: I am mostly Czechoslovakian (my father’s side is from the modern day Czech Republic, and my mother’s side is from current Slovakia). However, on top of that, I am also a little Irish, Polish, English, and German, for people of those nationalities married into my family, too, eventually giving birth to the people who gave birth to the people who gave birth to me. So I naturally just keep adding their nationalities on.

It’s much different than someone whose family has lived in, say, Vietnam for forever. That person is a Vietnamese citizen and also has a Vietnamese nationality. Likewise, someone whose family has always lived in Scotland has both a Scottish citizenship and nationality. But an American is only an American in regards to his citizenship.

This changes, however, if the family is one of the few that actually did originate in the country. In that case, citizenship is American, and nationality is Native American.

I know this is probably a really pointless blog post for most, but this confusion comes up a lot in my life (I know quite a few non-Americans). So I thought I’d finally just put the explanation out there for the whole world to see. Who knows. Maybe it will finally help clear things up.

As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time.

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