you should not use a hyphenated prefix before "American". African American? not unless you were born there. American of African Heritage? sure. Same with any group.
I think the hyphenation is intended more as an abbreviation of "American of <insert ancestral origin here> Heritage." I really don't see it as a distancing mechanism. Its entirely possible to be American ideologically (i.e., rule of law, equality etc.) and simultaneously maintain one's culture and/or ethnicity.
America has no culture of its own historically. All of it was brought here from somewhere else, with the exception of the native tribal cultures. So what if someone wants to identify publicly with both? That's the sort of freedom that makes America what it is.
I envy people who know their ancestry. I wish I knew my own, it would give me some sense of identity other than "consumer."
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