I am an American

My ethic/national background is complex and always requires a story to explain how I came to be a German-Irish-Peruvian American with actual pirate and smuggler forbears.  Yeah, like any of that makes sense.

Except in America.

I get asked what my ethnic/nationality background is ALL. THE. TIME.  Mostly, I think, because I have coloring and features that could fit into dozens of countries, ethnicities and cultures.  I’m asked constantly if I am Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Isreali and Pakistani/Afghani.  When they see my last name I’m asked which part of South America I’m from and then told in insistent tones to promptly speak Spanish.

Only once in my entire life has anyone ever asked me if I was Irish.  It was my Civil War history professor who thought my green eyes were Irish.  Then he gave me a cigar and told me to drink a pint of Jameson’s while smoking the cigar to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.

I’ve never considered myself “Hispanic”.  Ever.  My family does not have Hispanic traditions.  My Dad was raised in pre-WWII Germany by his German mother while his Peruvian father was often at sea.  By the time they came to America in 1937, Dad was pretty much a German child.  Christmas morning only officially began when Dad would put the German Christmas carols on and we could go downstairs.

Mom’s parents were a mess, her mom an orphan berift of all tradition, her father the son of Irish pirates who moved from Newfoundland to settle in British Columbia.  They were hard people. Needless to say, Mom didn’t have a lot of traditions other than the ones she learned as a result of being poor as heck on a hardscrabble farm during the Depression in the Northwest.

So, when you ask me where I’m from, I’m going to say “New Jersey” which is where I was born.  And when stupid forms ask me for my ethnicity I check all options if “other” is unavailable.

When census time comes, I’m making sure we check other and list “American” in the ethnicity option.  Honestly, who is really one pure ethnicity or race?  No one.   It’s a stupid question.

Join me in checking “Other” and filling in “American” on the 2010 census.

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3 Responses to I am an American

  1. Dana says:

    I will answer all Census questions as we are instructed to (“Enumeration” must be conducted every ten years “in such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct.”), but I shall do it gnashing my teeth because this whole ethnicity issue just bugs the heck out of me. It should be my business and only those who I wish to make it known to. Also, the reality in America is that the vast majority of people are mutts with families having come from various places to our shores. Why isn’t “American” good enough?

  2. vivianlouise says:

    I hear you, Dana. I don’t want to get fined, prosecuted or jailed for failing to answer.

    The answers are NEVER satisfactory for what I am. They don’t accurately tell the tale, story or truth. I am an American.



  3. Annie says:

    Some people have said that the US immigration office is going to trace census respondents, find out if they are in this country legally, then locate and deport them if they are not. It’s part of a crackdown on undocumented workers — SO wrong!

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