I cleared my throat. "Ahem," I started with a smile. "I am an American."
In that context, I as an American was an invisible man! Yet, I have been put on notice that I am an American and, therefore, will be treated like how Hargobind Khorana was excommunicated. (At least Khorana won a Nobel Prize!)
Here in the US, my "American" identity is not always self-evident to people. Because, the default definition of an American is a white. Everybody else has to identified as not being white but still an American. A visiting white Australian or a Czech can pass off as "Americans" as long as they don't engage in conversations because, well, because of the white skin, but a brown-skinned American might be stopped in Arizona!
In this NY Times opinion essay, the author writes about her being black and an older white guy asking her:
It’s just that I don’t understand why you would want to call yourself black. Why not just call yourself a human? Now, it is obvious that you are a woman. But do you have to be a black woman? Why can’t you be a human?
She could have written a much more compelling essay than the one she has written in response to that question. I am reminded of Ralph Ellision in his Invisible Man:
Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway?—diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you'll have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive toward colorlessness? But seriously, and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen.
"they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one."