What do you think of Mr. Neck's opinion about who a "real" American is in Speak, and why is his opinion offensive?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mr. Neck believes that "real Americans" are people who, like his own family, have been in this country since the time of the American Revolution. He says,

"My family has been in this country for over two hundred years. We built this place, fought in every war from the first one to the last one, paid taxes, and voted."

Mr. Neck is angry because his son, who wants to be a firefighter, cannot get a job. He believes that his son's opportunities are somehow being stolen from him because of "some kind of reverse discrimination." Mr. Neck thinks that the United States should close its borders "so that real Americans can get the jobs they deserve." He begins a debate on the assertion that "America should have closed her borders in 1900."

Mr. Neck's opinion is offensive because he is suggesting that, because his family has been here since the founding of the United States of America, they are more deserving than those who have come later. The students understand this, mentally calculating whether or not their ancestors would have arrived before 1900 and thus have made "the Neck Cut." Essentially, Mr. Neck is saying that anyone who arrived in this country after 1900 should not have been allowed to stay.

I personally find Mr. Neck's opinion to be arrogant. I think that his definition of who is a "real American" is arbitrary, and that he conveniently overlooks the obvious fact that the "real Americans" stole the land from the Indians, who were here long before they came. Mr. Neck cannot support his opinion convincingly, and when the discussion turns against him, he becomes authoritarian and stops the debate, angrily saying "I decide who talks in here."

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