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Just recently Rihanna released a video for the song that debuted during March Madness called American Oxygen.

It begins with Rihanna in front of city hall with images of Obama’s inauguration, the March at Selma, and immigrants riding “the beast,” which is the train that many ride to immigrate into the United States.

I’m still a little conflicted as to what the video is saying since it shows harrowing images of police brutality intermingled with hopeful images of people working and rebuilding themselves. It also brings forth the reality of what immigration looks like and what it means to grow up in harsh neighborhoods.

It continues by saying, “Breathe out, breathe in American oxygen/Every breath I breathe/Chasin’ this American Dream/We sweat for a nickel and a dime/Turn it into an empire.” 

The lyrics speak of the American dream and idea is that America is the place to work hard and make something of yourself. 

This depiction of America as not only the triumphs, but also the sorrows and the injustices is indicative of a holistic view of America. 

What I feel Rihanna’s video to be saying is that we are all America. America is not a perfect place and there has been progress, but ultimately progress should never stop. However, despite its pit falls, it is still a place of opportunity – the opportunity to speak out and to work hard, the opportunity to be something and to make our nation better.

To be American there is no need to be born in the United States, to be American is to work hard and persevere. The face of our country is changing, our sense of patriotism and pride in our country is not only rooted in our birthplace, but in the place we choose to live. An American does not need to be born in America.

It is important to think of this especially considering our country was built on immigration and it still relies heavily on the labor of immigrants to maintain our agriculture and construction sectors. Ultimately, it is reflective of how we treat people. Every individual has a story and we must respect that story and respect them as humans, because we are all America.

America is not a language, or simply a place, or a birthright, it is an attitude. It is good, bad, and ugly. Protestors who are fervent for change are America. Individuals who cross the border for want of a better life are America. But America is also an excess of police brutality. America is also a mistreatment of its citizens. We must understand that a rosy eyed view of our country does nothing for its progress. We must build upon the good and try to rectify the bad. America is about change for the better. America is for those that wish it to be theirs.  

She ends her song with the repetition of We are the New America, possibly hinting  again at the face of a changing America. 

Honestly, I don’t know if Rihanna meant to say all this with her video, but it’s worth consideration and worth a watch in order to try to decipher what she really meant. 

 

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Political Science and Philosophy Major. Freshman at the University of Notre Dame.
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