The project of recalibrating American identity is dense with layers. At its foundation is the urgency of representation and inclusion: since the time of this nation’s inception (and well before), large swaths of the American population have not been afforded, and in many cases, have been systematically excluded from, the full expression of the privileges of citizenship, despite their natural right to that status. To recalibrate American identity is to reframe the image of an “American” in the collective conscious’ mind’s eye: dissolving any singular visual association in favor of an image of multitudes: a truer, inclusive depiction of the American population.

 

Another layer of this project is devoted to patriotic dissent: pushing against America’s ideas about itself, exposing and excavating the nation’s ugly and painful truths in order to heal and progress. This is dissent from a place of love: to recalibrate American identity is to own the many ways America has fallen short of its promise of “liberty and justice for all,” and to obligate it to make good on that ideal. 

 

Finally, there is a conceptual layer to this project. Anything an American person says, does, thinks, or feels, is, by the transitive property, American. And so, as Americans express empathy and respect towards people of various backgrounds, these qualities are rendered American. As Americans fight to extend justice and equality to all, these actions are rendered American. As Americans build networks of mutual aid, these communities are rendered American. To recalibrate American identity is to move from the conceptual to the actual--deliberately linking the diverse beauty and compassion evident in the American population to associations with our national identity. To reject the assignment of “un-American” to beliefs and acts which move America closer to the nation it claims to be; to proclaim ardently “this is what it means to be American.”

Ellen Jackson

Curator + Producer

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