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Meb KeflezighiMeb Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City Marathon, and he was the first American to win the marathon since 1982… or wasn’t he?
His victory stirred some controversy about who is an American and who isn’t, and many racist comments emerged after the marathon.
The fact is that Meb Keflezighi was born in Eritrea in 1975 but he emigrated to the United States via Italy when he was 12 years old. Here he began running while in High School. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1998.
Under this citizenship is that he won the marathon, and many people started complaining, like sport commentator Darren Rovell, that he wasn’t a “real” American. What makes an American then?
The place where you are born, the place where you trained/studied most of your life, the place where you choose to live right now (even if you are illegal), a piece of paper?
I think that he is an American for more than one reason and I also think those offensive comments are racism disguised as criticism. He is being rejected because he is an immigrant but over all because he is black. I wonder if it would have been the same if instead of being a black Eritrean, he was a white German, or British…
He deserves to be considered an American runner. After all, the majority of American families came from all over the world not many decades ago. How many generations of people born in American soil in your family do you need to be considered an American?
If you are living in a country willfully, study, work, and have a family, you are a citizen even when sometimes you have no legal papers to prove it. You are contributing to that society in some way. On top of that, if the country has given you the legal papers that prove that the country recognizes you as one of their citizens, there is no doubt that you are one of them.
Meb Keflezighi is considered a citizen when he pays his taxes every year but not when he wins a marathon? The comments sounded a lot like he was “cheating”, because he is actually an African runner and we know that Africans are physically different, right?  It reminds me about the book I commented a while ago, The Black Girl Next Door. The author tells an episode where a white classmate accused her of cheating during a race at school because “everybody knows that black people have something in their feet that allows them to run faster”, and instead of help her the teacher agreed with the racist commentary!
I guess Darren Rovell also believes that…
Many nations in Europe abide by a law called “jus sanguinis” by which nationality is not determined by place of birth, but by having an ancestor who is a national or citizen of the state. The US on the contrary uses what is called “jus solis” or birthright citizenship, by which citizenship can be recognized to any person born in that country. We Argentineans know this law by heart, since many of us are the first or second generation born in Argentina from parents or grandparents emigrated from Europe not so long ago. I am at the same time Argentinean by birth, Italian by blood, and American by choice.
And what are my children? Dylan is first generation American but by blood he could be Argentinean or Italian, and Feromsa and Feven are Ethiopian by birth but are American by adoption. If any of them decide in the future to run an international marathon, will they be considered American, or are they not good enough? I would like to see the “pedigree” of those that think that Meb Keflezighi is not technically an American. I’m sure that all of them have ancestors born somewhere else not so long ago, maybe one, two or three generations ago. According to European laws they would be considered Europeans… 
Impostors, cheaters!! you are not Americans, get out of here and go back to your country!!
Of course this is not the first time this kind of thing happens, and neither the last one. Everybody travels looking for better opportunities, running from wars and hunger, or just because we feel more comfortable in a different country than the one where we were born. Fazil Bizuneh
Here just two examples of “Ethiopian” runners that are living away from his native country:
Fasil Bizuneh. His family is from Ethiopia but emigrated to Germany where he was born. Later they all moved to the US where he was raised in Indiana and after a while became an US citizen, and he now runs under that flag. He is still considered an Ethiopian by many for his heritage, but is here where he stayed, and where he started his running career.
Maryam Yusuf Jamal (or Zenebech Tola) was born in 1984 in the Oromia region of Ethiopia but left her country due to political and economic problems. She then became a citizen of Bahrain.
You are what you want to be, even if you weren’t born in a country but live there and feel comfortable in that place. Then, that’s your place in the world and you belong to that land. Many people live in one place but keep other cultures alive and that’s OK too. In the same way that you love many people at the same time in different ways, you can love and enjoy many cultures.
Specially in America, land of immigrants. 
It is not necessary to leave your heritage behind to be considered an American, that’s what America is about (or should be).


Oficial site of Meb Keflezighi
The Keflezighi Controversy
Top Ethiopian runner gives marathon advise – Interview to Fasil Bizuneh by Ethiopian Review
Ethiopian sport legend Mamo Wolde’s family flourish in Minnesota by Ethiopian Review
African Vs. African American Vs. Black Vs. Habesha – “What” Are We Again?
What Makes a US Citizen a “Citizen”?
Abandoning Racist Pseudo-State “Ethiopia” to sink, Oromos Wisely Opt for Bahrain, Qatar American Chronicle
Born to Run Film