What does it mean to be an American?

native-cartoonI don’t know what it means to be an American, but I’m sharing this story in hopes that something will come of it.

My camp counselor position this past summer hosting Italian high school students was a major step forward for me both emotionally, socially, and professionally.

It was also a major step for me in realizing that perhaps being an “American” has little to do with what is the stereotype – namely a tall, blonde hair, blue eyed, chiseled, beach body male.

Here I was one of 3 camp counselors to these 100 some high school students and their teachers/chaperones – the only male in the entire team in the US.

One I called “BlondeOne”; the 21 year old blonde hair, blue eyed, soccer player was what you’d called your “typical” American – born and raised in the US with her family having been here since her grandparents’ days. The other “BrownEye” is an immigrant from Venezuela and only has started speaking English 5 years prior to when I met her. She could have been mistaken for a white American.

Me? First generation American of Chinese descent; both parents immigrated here  from war zones and are from lower middle class families.

And you know what, the Italians didn’t give a f*ck. 

What clued me in was actually towards the end, in the last days of camp. The students were mainly white, with only a couple of exceptions, so being Chinese had me stick out. But they didn’t give a damn, especially the group that I was with.

It also didn’t hurt at all when I noticed that some of the older girls giving me goo-goo eyes.

Being a professional of course – and remembering that many of them are still underage, I simply smiled and continued on with my business.

These kids – and their teachers for the most part treated me like I was an American. Now do I think there were questions and answers about how “American” I was, sure of course. Had there been a tall, blonde-hair, blue eyed, beach bodied, white male in the camp counselor corps then I’m sure the story would have been different.

But alas, there wasn’t a tall, white, blonde-hair, blue eyed male in that greeted those high school students.

It was me; a gung-ho, 27 year old, black haired, brown-eyed martial arts Chinese guy who could kick ass anywhere, anytime.

Perhaps this past camp counselor position was a bubble in some respects. I sure these kids have seen an Asian guy before – but perhaps not in such a high position of authority.

Anyway, just an interesting observation that I thought I’d share.


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