The final sample consisted of 10 participants (5 men and 5 women) who were second-generation graduate students from a predominantly White, midsized urban university in the Northeast. This sample size corresponds to the CQR method of recruiting between 8 and 12 participants (Hill et al., 1997). Regarding racial background, 5 identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, 3 identified as Hispanic, 1 identified as Caribbean, and 1 identified as White/Hispanic.
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Physical Characteristics of True Americans
Seven participants reported that white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes were the physical characteristics of a true American. Among these 7 participants, 6 participants mentioned White (n = 2), Caucasian (n = 3), or light skin (n = 1); 4 participants mentioned blonde hair (n = 2) or light hair (n = 2); and 4 participants mentioned blue eyes (n = 2) or light eyes (n = 2). For example, 1 Asian American male participant strongly associated being American with being White and believed that skin color was more important than other characteristics. He stated, “Being White is like a trump card, you can be like ignorant in politics and be White but more American than like a Black or Asian person.” Only 1 of the 7 participants who described White features also included gender. This Caribbean American man stated, “Definitely male, White umm, definitely male and White.” Only 2 of the 7 participants spoke of these features being part of a cookie-cutter or stereotypical American view of what is considered American.
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These findings should be considered in light of recent research in the area of American identity. For example, Cheryan and Monin (2005) found that although Asian Americans felt as American as their White American counterparts, they also recognized that they were not perceived as such by other Americans. Thus, it is possible that although our participants may have felt American, as second-generation Americans and racial/ethnic minorities, they may also have recognized that they were not perceived to be as American as White European Americans and thus described features such as blonde hair and blue eyes.
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Collectively, the results of our study indicated that being and feeling like a true American was complex and related to a number of individual and contextual factors. The complexity of participants' American identity definitions and negotiations is clearly evident in the results, in which four out of the six domains included categories that could be considered conceptual opposites: physical characteristics (White with blonde hair and blue eyes vs. diverse); beliefs and values (ethnocentrism vs. multiculturalism); impact of 9/11 (us-vs.-them mentality vs. greater unity); and participants' American identity (felt like a true American vs. did not feel like a true American). In addition, our results highlight the potential impact of sociopolitical forces in determining individuals' definitions and feelings of inclusion within a superordinate national identity.
 Park-Taylor et al. What It Means to Be and Feel Like a “True” American: Perceptions and Experiences of Second-Generation Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. April 2008, Vol. 14, No. 2, p 128-137