Friday, January 15, 2010

Can We Get Back to Being Just Plain Americans?

Don't get excited, this isn't a political blog; not now, not ever. It's not that I don't have political opinions. I've got opinions on most everything, just ask Paul, but that's not where I'm going with this. I will tell you, though, I am a proud American. Not much gets me more choked up and teary than hearing our national anthem or seeing Americans in uniform.

As an amateur genealogist, I am always curious about another person's heritage. Not because I need to "label" them, I just often find it fascinating because I've always thought my ancestry was pretty boring. Of course that was before I made my Pilgrim connection. But I'm about as much of a WASP as you can get, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a heritage I don't find very interesting.

But this idea of being hyphenated Americans is starting to get on my nerves. I am so sick of hearing people add the nationality of their ancestors to American, especially since it puts American in second position.

If you are a naturalized citizen, maybe that's a little different, but if you were born here, I don't care if your father, grandfather or great-grandmother was born on are NOT a Martian-American. YOU ARE AN AMERICAN!

I'm not suggesting that we forget where we or our families came from. Please don't ever forget your heritage. Families should remember their culture, their cuisine, their religion, their language. Please teach it to your children, your grandchildren. Be proud of your ancestry but do you really have to tag it onto the nationality you really are?

Paul and I spent two weeks in Portugal a couple years ago. On our way home when going through the Lisbon airport, one of the immigration officials asked for my passport. She immediately recognized that my last name, my married name, was Portuguese. Paul's grandparents were born in the Azores, a group of islands about 900 miles off the coast of Portugal.

When I got married almost 25 years ago, I probably should have kept my maiden name, it fit me a whole lot better than my married name does. As a six-foot redhead, no one would ever mistake me for being of Portuguese descent.

So when the immigration lady looked at my passport, obviously recognizing the origin of the name, she asked "Do you know anyone who is Portuguese?" I smiled, pointed at Paul and said, "Like him?" She glanced at his passport and gave me a withering look that seemed to ask, 'are you stupid?' then said "he was born in Massachusetts." In other words, "he's not Portuguese, he's American."

After that, I realized that in other countries, no matter where your parents, grandparents or any other ancestors were born, if you were born here, you are an American. So why can't we Americans seem to get that message?


Pam said...

That's a funny story and very telling! I have to agree with your opinion about hyphenated nationalities.

Sherri said...

I hate to hear someone say they are African-American. I always respond to that....African-American, your a black American. Just like Im a white American. My g-grandpartent were from Portugal, that doesn't make me a Portugese-American, I was born here, Im an American & so are you. They look at me funny, think about it, and then they change the subject. LOL I think labeling it just sets us apart from a country as a whole. Like the whole North South issue. Theres another story all on its

Alexis AKA MOM said...

Sandy I truly enjoyed this post, Rick and I talk about this often. My grandparents came here from Germany, the last name was shortened to become more American. They were so excited and proud to be here and to be called an American. I can say I am too :)

great post!

Vodka Logic said...

Yep American is American. You don't have to deny "your" heritage to be American.

DUTA said...

These things are very hard to understand and explain; anyway the comparison with Portugal is not a good one. Portugal is a more or less an homogenous society whereas America is a multi-ethnical society.

In a society made up of many ethnical groups - the common country (America) is secondary whereas the country of origin becomes the primary , the one to be proud of and honored.

Sandy said...

DUTA, I don't agree that the chosen country, America, should be secondary. Absolutely one should be proud of and honor their heritage, I said that, but I don't think it should come first.

Debbie said...

Oh Sandy, I so agree with you. And think of all the hurt feelings and problems we could avoid if we could all just be Americans.

Mommakin said...

I recently heard a black comedian from Canada talk about someone referring to him as a 'Canadian African-American'. WTF???

Yepperdee, it's gone too far...

Alex the Girl said...

Holy cow, my ancestory is such a mix, I think I'd need an entire page just to cover the native, african (yes from waaaaay back in the 1840's), german (go figure), irish, french, and what the hell else you can shove up in there. I find my ancestory fascinating, rich, and multi cultured, and I am proud of the journeys my family has taken in order to get to where to (improper english..I know!).

Good post, Sandy.

Good point.

Anita said...

I to get frustrated by this hyphenation. Here in FL we have a multitude of Hispanic cultures, and you can only imagine what I hear.
Personally, I'm a mutt, my families ancestries are all over the place.

Brittany said...

I am honestly floored by your post. I have never thought of the hyphen American in this way... and, I TOTALLY agree!!!

I'm wondering how many people that this will make mad, because it is not "PC." But, I am so over all of that... I'm sick of all of the labels.

Great stuff!
Thank you for sharing!

Ginger said...

I would ideally love to agree with you on this! Unfortunately, everything is still segregated into categories, especially for "statistics" and especially in education. I nearly fell out of my chair when the principal at our school told the faculty, "We need to work on our African-American science," as if it were a different class than just regular science. She meant the sub group, African American kids, scored lower in science than the other sub groups. Categorizing people like that is wrong!

The only way to rectify any of this is to consider people as individuals, instead of as groups. Sadly, I doubt that will ever happen.

BLOGitse said...

You're right!
I'm a Finn, from Finland, living as an expat in Cairo at the moment.
In Finland all babies are Finnish if their parents are Finnish.
Not American Finnish or Finnish American - pure Finnish!

Your blog is very interesting!
You got a new follower. Now I go back to your SITS day posting...


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