African-American. Polish-American. Asian-American. Why the hyphens? Why can't people just call themselves American?

Many people have a hyphenated race to show where they come from. But because all Americans (excepting Native Americans) come from somewhere else, why do people feel the need to distinguish themselves from others?

I believe that these hyphens are building barriers between the different ethnic groups. Instead of focusing on what we have in common, we are focusing on what we have that is different. And notice how American is always placed last, as if their allegiance is to where their ancestors came from, and not to the country that has given them freedom and the lives that they have now.

If people would call themselves just plain American, I believe that we would have less friction between groups than what we do today. Some people might be thinking at this point "But we haven't always had these hyphens. Even before, we were a fragmented society." I agree with that. But back then, we had somethign to replace the hyphens. We had words like slave, Pole, Kraut, and other derogatory words. These separated society as well. When those terms became archaic, we devised something else to separate ourselves: hyphens. These hyphens have continued the division between the American people. "I'm Asian-American, they're African-American."

You may be thinking that I have no pride in where my ancestors came from, but I do. I also have the pride of being an American. We all have something in common, our nationality. We should focus on that instead of what we have different. It only leads to distrust, division, and hate.

Too bad the census forms don't have a box to check for just plain American.