I hate filling out forms. The good news is that with modern word processors most of the most tedious jobs are done: name, address, zip code…all done with a pre-filler that comes as part of just about any software now.
I still hate filling out forms. The part I hate the most is when they get to ethnicity or race. I’ve always found those particular categories interesting in an annoying way. First, why is it important to know my ethnicity to begin with? Maybe some sort of internal auditing or something. Maybe to figure out how many Hispanic-non white people are using the service, or the number of Pacific Islanders that need to order that item from wherever. I’m not sure, and never have been sure that any of that matters, but maybe it does for some bean counter or statistician professional someplace in the netherworld of statistics. Admittedly, numbers are not my strong suit, but it still doesn’t register with me why anyone would need to know my ethnicity.
The other thing about those categories that bothers me is what those particular statistics have to do with my purchase. If I’m, say, anything but white (another stupid category), is someone going to tell me I can’t purchase said item? What if I am white? Am I not going to be allowed to purchase the item? Any of those consequences seem to me to be the very definition of racism, if we’re going to play the who is a racist game. Counting one’s ethnicity in any sort of metric seems as silly to me as asking the person in line at Starbucks what their ethnicity is before serving them a cup of their favorite joe (an old slang term for coffee – which I happen to like – I hope I didn’t offend any “joes”).
Interestingly enough, the category that’s never, ever on the choice list is American. There’s many of the other ones but nothing that says ‘American’ on the list. I’ve always wondered that as well. Listen, I know we’re a multi-ethnic nation and increasingly so is the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because so many would rather not forget their personal history – the connection to the motherland or fatherland as it were. “Yes, my grandparents came here from (fill-in-the-nation) and I am third generation but I’m still (fill-in-ethnicity).
The counter question for me was always, “But we’re you not born here?” The answer is usually, “yes, but….”
There’s an unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that even though one was born in the United States they’re American. Usually, they refer to where their ancestors were from for their self identification. I read something from a Polish writer once who said, “Look, if you weren’t born in Poland, don’t speak the Polish language, and were born in America, you’re not Polish, you’re American.” To my mind, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Further, when one leaves the United States for a different country (notice I didn’t say foreign?) we’re asked “Are you American?” What would be your response? If you were being honest, you’d say “yes” (I know, YOU wouldn’t but I think you’re lying).
For some strange reason, Americans are stuck in this ideology of denying one’s an American and it’s never made sense to me. Yes, I know the activists are going to come out of the wood work to excoriate me about how the only true Americans are the Native Americans, how many do not wish to acknowledge their Americanness because of our perceived atrocities throughout our nation’s history and throughout the world and all that. I get it…and I think it’s garbage. For the most part, those same people still live in what they’ll refer to as a godforsaken wasteland anyway. Further, I wonder how many of those same people bothered to study the history of their family’s country of origin? If they did, and if they’re being honest, I don’t think they’d find much difference historical as nations, all of them at one time or another, have committed acts that might be deemed atrocities.
The notion that Native Americans were all peaceful, Kevin Costner types is simply not correct. They invade other tribal nations, executed their enemies, and fought wars of territorial conquest just as any other nation. The Aztec were worse, committing acts of ritual sacrifice as well as holding prisoners of conquered tribes for the very same. The list goes on…Romans, each of the Chinese dynasties, the Dahomey of West Africa…it never ends. There is no such thing as an innocent nation in any respect…none. That might be the story of world history in a nutshell, and no amount of historical double speak or academic word salad or revisionist history is going to change that fact. Well, revisionism might but then it’s not revisionism, it’s a lie.
Multi-cultural nations have existed ever since people began populating the earth. The Roman Empire was extremely multi-ethnic/multi-cultural and did quite well in embracing that fact. So were many nations throughout the world. We are no different other than the fact that we are now actively promoting those differences, catering to those differences, and allowing those differences to frack our nation (yes, I used frack as in the process of fracking). This is not healthy and if allowed to continue, will destroy whatever hegemony we have left, much like the Roman Empire was destroyed by divisions within exacerbated by invasion from without.
The common denominator of nations that can stand the test of time is despite the differences that exist, there was always a way to bring people together. Commonality of language is the easiest method. Still retaining one’s sense of their own history but embracing the dominant language of the chosen place to live (as many in Rome adopted Latin). The second is realizing that in the end, despite one’s original family heritage, you are now (fill-in-the-blank). In my case – American. My ethnicity may be Italian and German (according to DNA testing – a lot more than that as are all of you reading this), but in the end, I was born and raised American. That’s what I am, and I’m quite proud of it. Embracing our commonality rather than over-emphasizing our differences to create separation serves as the glue for any nation, and ours is no different.
It would seem to me the sooner we stop asking people what their nationality is and start recognizing that those born here or naturalized are Americans, the sooner all of this other divisive nonsense will sink into the oblivion that it belongs (Yes, I’m quite aware there are other ‘Americas’ – I am using the colloquialism and again, you know what I mean).
This does not mean to suggest that one should abandon their cultural heritage at all, for that is part of the richness of this nation or any other one. It is the acknowledgement of our uniqueness, our individuality, and our heritage which people need. What it does mean to suggest is that people begin to embrace being American first, and understanding that the person next to you, no matter their, well, anything, is also an American (yes, I know there are non-citizens here as well…don’t be a dolt – you get what I’m driving at), not some check-box ethnicity.
I’m your people and you are my people…and in case you’re wondering. I am an American.