About US: Our readers grab the mic to tell their stories

Candid conversations about identity in 21st-century America
The Washington Post

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Candid conversations about identity in 21st-century America
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About US readers get their turn at the mic

Fewer visas for immigrants from Muslim-majority countries

Struggling to be proud to be American


What is your identity?

We have enjoyed meeting so many of our readers, who responded to our call to share their identities with us. This is the 25th edition of About US, which was launched with the goal of learning more about how we see ourselves and each other in our increasingly diverse country. As we continue this journey, we encourage you to keep giving us feedback about how we can better address the issues important to you. And we also want to hear more about you, the characteristics and life experiences make up your identity. Send a short description, along with a photo, to aboutus@washpost.com.

Thanks for reading About US.

Now, meet some of your fellow readers.


I’m 66, soon to be 67 and a white female retired ELCA Lutheran pastor. I have no idea what it’s like not to have the freedom to come and go as I please, as long as I can afford it, but much of the freedom I now have was fought for by women and minorities before me.

I grew up on the Civil Rights protests of the late 50s and early 60s. When I was in 11th grade, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. My generation and all who have come after MLK owe much to those people who taught us how to protest nonviolently. That man and the people with him were as much prophets as any in the Bible, convincing us of our injustice and calling us to straighten out our lives. We still are trying, but we are making progress and I am proud of the progress we are making. I’m not proud of the thousand ways we resist that progress as a nation.

Recently, I read N.T. Wright’s “Evil and the Justice of God,” in which he underlines again that confronting injustice and other evils always entails suffering. There is much about America that needs fixing in order to live up to its values. Unfortunately, it is often through the suffering of people denied mercy and handed injustice that we make progress. When the unvarnished truth of those things comes out, it changes people. That is the America I love the best. It is our biggest gift to ourselves as a nation and to the world that truth has a chance, somewhere, somehow, to come out, the naked personal truth of people just trying to live.

That truth gives us the opportunity to confront what we are doing and repent. I love Americans best when they recognize a need for repentance and, even if it’s eventually, they change. Not everybody, but enough of everybody that we inch forward.


Wow, good question.

I’m 64 now and have evolved my views — not really changed them but have understood them better.

I am me. I was born in America and feel luckier than most. I don’t like poverty, but my view on that is mixed.

I always say don’t get pregnant until you can afford it, but I don’t walk in their shoes, so I really don’t know.

I love the Earth and being outside. I live in the country. I know how to swim.

I think Obamacare was one of the best things to happen in this country.

The Republicans are monsters.

Marijuana should be legal in the U.S.A. Let’s be the third country.

And I’m trying to love everybody.

Keep up the good work.


I was born in Berlin of Polish Jewish parents, with whom I fled the Nazi regime in 1933. After nine months in Antwerp, Belgium we fled again when we were about to be deported to Poland and came to the U.S. arriving on May 1, 1934. I often wondered why Anne Frank’s father, Otto, was denied permission to bring his family to the U.S. while my family was allowed in. I found the answer recently in a newspaper article. My family emigrated to the U.S. from Antwerp in April 1934; it appears that Otto Frank’s efforts to bring his family to the U.S. began in 1938. By that time, the U.S. was cutting back on immigration and Otto Frank’s efforts were also thwarted by bureaucracy and war.

I was a refugee to the U.S. I am a woman, a feminist activist, a Jew, a progressive, a lawyer, a public speaker, and a writer. The passion of my life has been fighting for women’s rights. My first action in that regard was on March 26, 1963, at the age of 34, when I testified on behalf of the ACLU before the House Committee on Education and Labor in favor of the Equal Pay Act. I am deeply committed, however, to ending invidious discrimination against all groups in the U.S. and all over the world that are discriminated against.


I’m a Chicanx, agender individual in one of the whitest states (Vermont) in America, and I take after my mother a lot in looks; [she] is white, not Chicanx. This means I’m pretty white-presenting myself, which often leaves me in the uncomfortable position of “too white for the Latinx, and too brown for the whites.” And since I’m neither man nor woman, I’m left pretty stranded there, too — particularly since I still look feminine in a lot of ways. The number of times I’ve had to explain that I don’t need to look androgynous to “earn” my they/them pronouns has been a little overwhelming, if I think too hard about it.

But I’m lucky to have a wonderful set of friends who understand me, and despite everything going on in my country, I believe we can move on and become a place where I can exist without worrying — about identity, at least! No longer too much or too little of anything. Just Mx. V. Gonzales.

Thank you for giving people like me a chance to show America that there are many different flavors of American — and we’re all equally proud.


I believe, passionately, that all men are created equal. That’s my identity. My ancestors came from Ireland and, depending on the year, France or Germany. My name is pronounced in a way that makes no phonetic sense in English or German. My stepdaughter is half African American, and her son, my grandson … well, it’s so complicated let’s just call him American.

Like the country that raised me with the idea that all men are created equal, my actions don’t always meet this aspiration. But there is no question about the goal. We celebrate it together every year.

Here’s the thing, though. “All are men are created equal” doesn’t stop at the 49th parallel or the Rio Grande or even the Atlantic Ocean. All men are all men and, to make sure there’s no question, that means all humans, not just males.

So, what does it mean, then, to be an American?

First, it means I’m grateful to come from a country that first articulated that goal as a standard and has — however imperfectly — tried to achieve it. One can reasonably focus on the awful deviations from this goal, some built into the same national foundations. But one can also appreciate that in the course of 250 years, as a country we have learned, made numerous course corrections, tried to rectify missteps, and, on our better days, been willing to carry the message around the globe. There is much to be proud of in the American heritage.

Second, I appreciate that America offers a framework of laws and customs that systematically protects my rights. Citizens of many countries cannot count on this.

Third, America is the place where I vote. And by that I’m not just talking about voting, but about the entire project of our civil society through which I am called on to contribute to the effort to improve society’s realization of our national aspiration, to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

Fourth, it means I love baseball. My White Sox are horrible this year … but there’s always next year, an attitude that is another great gift from America.


My name is Arvin, and I’m a Filipino-Indian American. My mom is from the Philippines, my dad is from India. I actually wrote about my American identity for The Post in an op-ed last year.

To me, an important part of being American means feeling connected to a lineage of male and female writers who I admire and who have contributed to American literature and thought: John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou. I am inspired by them to not only fully express who I am and where I’m from, but to write with conviction, passion, and the betterment of the nation.


We’re retired (former engineers), married 36 years. Pictures of us these days focus on the scenery we love rather than our older selves. This one was taken at Tent Rocks, New Mexico.

Our personal experiences led us to a more left-leaning perspective. We’re registered Democrats, and we consistently vote that way (not likely to ever support independent candidates because, at least in our state, they simply swing the election to the GOP candidate).

We have both recently admitted to ourselves, and others, that we’re atheists. Now we’re comfortable with that label (we weren’t before we retired and felt free to explore our true feelings and be open about it).

We follow the news, enjoy learning more about the world, including the latest scientific advances (especially in neuroscience and psychology — to better understand how our brains work).


I am Cassandra. I’m an American. A Christian. A parent and grandparent. I am from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am a woman, an uber-privileged white Southern woman at that. I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. I am also a 1984 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. I religiously watch all Army-Navy football games, and stand proudly with the University of Alabama in their football games. Roll! Tide, Roll! I support and defend the right of the NFL players to kneel. For me, and just for me, since I do know that gender and sexual orientation occur and express epigenetically on distinct distributions, or spectra, for me, as a 59-year-old post-op transgender woman, who is a straight woman at that, I am loving life like never before and I am proud of all that I am because I know that I know with no doubt that my God made me this way.

Be strong! Be proud!

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The Trump administration is changing the face of legal immigration to the United States. Among the most affected are people attempting to immigrate from Muslim-majority countries on the president’s travel ban list — Yemen, Syria, Iran, Libya and Somalia.

The number of visas issued to those countries is heading toward an 81 percent drop by Sept. 30, the end of Trump’s second fiscal year. The average decline for all Muslim-majority countries is 29 percent.

The Trump administration has argued that its immigration policies are driven by national security concerns and an effort to preserve jobs for Americans. But some have raised concerns that the administration’s approach targets certain nationalities, discriminating against those from poorer and nonwhite countries.

The Post’s analysis of federal visa issuance data found immigration declines among many nationalities that are not on President Trump’s travel ban list, too, including people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, Haiti, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The number of immigrant visas approved for Africans is on pace to fall 15 percent by the end of Trump’s second fiscal year. Meanwhile, the flow of legal immigrants from Europe has increased slightly.

The shift in legal immigration is a reversal of the trend under President Barack Obama. During Obama’s time in office, immigrant visas increased by 33 percent, surging to the highest level in decades. Under Trump, the number is on pace to drop 12 percent during his first two years.

— Abigail Hauslohner


In our July 6 edition, Emily Guskin, Post polling analyst, reported that the share of people who say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans has plunged, from 70 percent in 2003 to a record-low 47 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll.

About US reader Shirlee Grabko, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, sent this response, in which she starts with a lyric from “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a song by country singer Lee Greenwood:

“Proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free …”

Not really. But I simply cannot get that song out of my head. I feel ashamed that the country I was so proud of has regressed so badly. It is heartbreaking to me to see how we are treating people of color, the poor, seniors, the disabled, immigrants, the environment, the world community and so much more.

What is most shocking to me is the number of citizens of this country who are bigots, misogynists and just spew hate. I knew there were a few, just not so many.

In the ’60s and ’70s, I marched for equality, for an end to war and for women’s rights. I naively thought that, except for tweaking and fine tuning, that we were done laying the foundation for a better life for all.

I am sickened and overwhelmed by how many people are not disgusted, and those who are emboldened, by the present “leader” of this country.

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‘What’s up with that white voice?’: The tricky art of linguistic code-switching.
(The Post)

Why trans actors should be cast in trans roles
(Chicago Tribune)

Airbnb benefits local economies. But mainly in white neighborhoods, study finds.
(The Post)

What men are trying to say when they show off their Female Relationship Résumé
(The Post)

‘I can’t stay completely silent’: Country music’s Jason Isbell looks inward in examining a ‘White Man’s World’
(Los Angeles Times)

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