All my life I've been asked a particular question which if you're a person of color, I'm sure you've been asked too: Where are you from? When younger I answered Florida. Sometimes I'd get an awkward nod at this response, but other times the questioner would persist, sometimes politely by, "I mean ethnically speaking. . ." and sometimes not so politely (though I refuse to impute bad intent): No where are you really from? Pakistan, I would respond though a tiny voice in my head wondered because I'm not really from here?
My parents are from Pakistan but the last time I stepped foot in Pakistan I was eight years old. Yes I share genetic makeup with people of that part of the world. Yes I speak the language and own shalwar kamiz and value my ancestral homeland and much of my writing is inspired by Pakistan, but I was born here. I'm a U.S. Citizen by birthright. My home is here, my family is here, my career is here. I am from here. This led to many an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) moment growing up but I've come to accept myself as a Pakistani-American. I'm a blend of east meets west. Mostly west, but undeniably east as well.
But now I look at my son. His grandparents have lived here longer than they lived in Pakistan, his parents are from here, he is from here, and yet are people still going to ask him where he is really from? Ofcourse they are. And while I am proud that I am Pakistani. Proud of my son's dark brown eyes and soft black hair and the history behind his DNA when I look at him I wonder: when does the hyphenation end? How many generations does it take to get to call yourself American full-stop? I'm not sure since African-Americans are still called that despite having lived here hundreds of years without ever setting foot in the motherland or knowing anyone who lives there. And then I wonder, is it only white people who can be American-sans-hyphen despite the rich heritage of countries from which they also hail?
With a country growing in diversity every second of the day, I wonder when the hyphens will end because as much as its important to celebrate our cultural diversity, predicating the word American with a hyphen implies that you are not fully from here even if here is all you know. And what a strange place to vacillate between when you are not from there, but not perceived fully from here either. I want my son to be proud to of Pakistani heritage but I hope he will know that when people ask him where he is really from, the answer is here.