“Who is truly an American citizen? Is it your next-door neighbor, community teacher, or the soldier serving overseas?” Kevin King, a summer intern with MALA, attempts to answer these important questions in his story. Kevin also highlights how MALA’s work for a pluralistic American society inspired him to share his story and work.

 

I am a proud ABC (American Born Chinese) living in a small city called Warsaw, Indiana where ethnic diversity is lacking. As a young child, I remember my classmates asking me about how life was like as one of the few Asian Americans in the city. I answered with quite a basic response somewhat along these lines. “I really am not sure though everyone looks at me quite strangely.”

Now, I am well aware of how my ethnic/national identities affect my daily life. If I could go back to assist my younger self, I would have said, “It’s quite different and challenging to some degree, yet I find it exhilarating because I can teach all of you to be more understanding of those who come from different life backgrounds then you.” That is exactly what I would say now to anyone who asks me especially those who question what being an American really means. What makes someone an American and not? Well, I believe an American is somebody who embodies the spirit of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in all aspects of their life.

The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) is an amazingly influential nonprofit trying to alter the conversation about the role of Muslim Americans in the U.S. How is MALA already making this happen? It’s creating a virtual cache of recorded verbal stories of Muslim Americans who are changing what it means to respect both your ethnic and national identity. This is what drew me to work with MALA. I firmly believe that both your ethnic and national identities can work in harmony because by respecting who you are is how you will find your place in society.

I want to shine a spotlight on what it means to respect both your ethnic and national identity whether you’re a Muslim American or of another demographic category. We all were placed on this Earth for a reason.

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