Until we came to Baker & Inglis my friends and I had always felt completely American. But now the Bracelets’ upturned noses suggested that there was another America to which we could never gain admittance. All of a sudden America wasn’t about hamburgers and hot rods anymore. It was about the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.

Cal makes this comment in Chapter 16 when describing how Callie and the other girls from families who are not white Anglo-Saxon Protestant get grouped together at high school. Callie learns here that her behavior and actions cannot determine her social status because her very Greekness bars her from friendship with the Charm Bracelets. This realization echoes Lefty’s discovery that his Greek origins hinder his attempts at success when he’s fired from the Ford factory because of his relationship to Zizmo. Even though the Ford English School pageant claimed that one could become American by letting go of their roots, the fact that Lefty could do everything right and still lose his job reveals this to be a lie. Milton also struggles with insufficient whiteness when he has to game the Point System in order to move to Grosse Pointe. Even if a family can achieve the markers of the American dream, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant gatekeepers have their own definition of “American” that cannot be bought.

This quotation also plays into the themes of inheritance and genetic destiny. Although the U.S. portrays itself as a nation believing in free will, with the idea that success can be achieved through hard work, the gatekeeping of mainstream whiteness proves that the country also operates according to a fated pattern of inheritance. As Callie observes, the Charm Bracelets don’t earn their position at school through hard work but through inheriting the physical traits and financial capital their parents have. Just as Cal inherits a Greek history, the Charm Bracelets inherit the mythos of the Mayflower pilgrims. In an America that subscribes to genetic destiny, the hard work and free will of immigrants can never completely win. The unfairness of this paradigm is even more stark when applied to the Black citizens of Detroit, who are routinely denied opportunities for financial success or even the pretense of assimilation. Cal describes the 1967 riots as an American revolution because it involves the Black citizens rebelling against the loaded system and the lie that America values only hard work and free will.