defining their caucasian heritage - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 01-01-2009, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
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My 8yo is full of questions about her heritage from my side. It's more about culture than race, but race does come into it. My dh is from India, he is a Tamilian from the south of India. Those people have been in that part of India for many many many generations and they have distinctive features and language, as well as culture. Very much like the many tribes of Africa, or the native people's of Australia.

Then she asked if she was half American also. My dh is now an American citizen, and the US is a very diverse place so I didn't feel that defining her as "half-American" was the answer. I got out our globe and told her that my ancestors are from Scotland, England, Germany, and we have a bit of Native American in us a couple of generations ago. But truthfully my ancestors came so long ago from Europe they are registered as First Families of Ohio and Virginia, so that was a very long time ago. I can't really claim cultural affinity with those countries any longer. My NA great-great grandmother is just a name on a genealogy chart. We are not even sure what tribe she was from.

So what am I? And what is she half of from my side?

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
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#2 of 11 Old 01-01-2009, 04:57 PM
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Oh, I thought this would be about caucasians from the Caucauses, Central and South Asia and whether they define as Asian or Caucasian. My mom is "just white" but luckily we know her heritage pretty far back. We are decended from a long line of pilgrims, mercenaries and adventuresses. Heh. When people as me about my heritage, I like to tell a lot of individual stories that illustrate the different things that people went through to get to this country (the U.S.). I don't define it by race as a broader category- I like to speak in specifics, the country, the year, the occupation, the decision to divorce and forge an independent beginning, New York, Boston, and how we got to the west coast.

I don't care if that is more than people wanted when they asked where our family is from. My mother's "white" heritage is just as important to me as my father's non-white heritage. Let them listen. Generally people enjoy it and I am happy to honor my heritage in that way.

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#3 of 11 Old 01-01-2009, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by USAmma View Post

So what am I? And what is she half of from my side?
Personally, I go with Euro-American.

"White" describes the color of my skin, it tells you nothing about my ethnic heritage or my culture so I don't find it very useful in anything but the most causal reference to identity.

My Grandfather was full blooded Dutch, and 5 of my great-grandparents emigrated from various northern European countries between 1895 and 1915. Even though most of my ancestors showed up in America more recently than yours, my family has only a handful of traditions handed down from those various cultures. We treasure the traditions, but it doesn't make us members of that culture. The culture we can claim membership in is American.

It's great fun to trace back the various ethnicities, and I'm sure your LO enjoys & values it as much as I always did. But for practical identification it's just too cumbersome. I can't imagine trying to teach my kids that they are half Bengali (DH), and half Dutch/english/germanic/jewish-swede/irish/old-American-who-knows-where-they-came-from

African American, Native American, Asian American, all are legitimate ethnicities, describing people of various descents who were born in North America. So when asked, I've no problem describing my ethnicity as Euro-American. It's the simplest, most honest answer
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#4 of 11 Old 01-01-2009, 05:42 PM
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Oh, I thought this would be about caucasians from the Caucauses
LOL, me too! I was excited for a discussion on Caucasian identity and culture A part of me feels like I should expose dd to Caucasian culture, although we are not ethnic Caucasians, but I suppose she is Caucasian by birth and in that sense it "feels" to me like part of who she is. Yet, not being Caucasian, it also feels a little "artificial" to me.

But nevermind. I see I misunderstood the thread

Personally, I go with Euro-American.
Yes, I generally classify myself (if I MUST classify myself) as an American of European descent. Beyond that it is messy. I am mainly of Irish and Swiss heritage, with a lot of other things mixed in; and part of my mother's family did settle in the US in the early 1700's so we have some early American settler in there as well. It's a bit of a mosaic, and that's cool with me

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#5 of 11 Old 01-02-2009, 03:11 PM
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On one side, my family has been in Ok. since before it was a state, and we only have vague ideas about where they were before that. That part of my heritage is "Okie" and I'm proud of the hard-working, ethnically mixed (a couple tribes for sure, maybe black too. Who knows ) pioneers I come from. I will tell my kids stories about sod busters, US Marshalls ,saw-millers and "half-breed" Indians. My DH had folks on the second boat to hit Massachusetts, who later carved their own chunk out of the VT wilderness.
But that doesn't change the fact that we are also European-American, from many different ethnic groups, and have a claim to that title just like African-Americans who have little or no personal connection to the tribes their ancestors came from.
Your DD is lucky to have atleast 2 rich cultures to connect to, and a family that values both.

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#6 of 11 Old 01-03-2009, 12:33 AM
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My family identifies itself as being German, with my grandfather coming over on a boat at 4yo, and three sets of great grandparents coming previous to that. We are Volga Germans, Germans from Russia. I've been trying to learn more about my ethnic heritage.
DH is Kenyan, so we tell the kids they are half Kenyan and half American. Although I did have to stop and pause this Christmas when DS said something to my cousin, and she replied "You're German, you should know that!" and then to me "Aren't you teaching your kids anything?" Not in a mean way, kind of joking but still.
But I realized, yes, they get a lot of Kenyan culture from DH and even from me, but they have never met his mom or their aunt and uncles from there. They see my parents twice a year, and get a lot of influence from me. I'll make German dishes I grew up with, DS has done family activities with my brother, and so they are getting a good dose of my culture as well, we just don't name is as such.
I do feel like it is a battle to remember to identify them as half-white, too, even with DH. He'd just as soon make them little 100% Kenyan children and I have to remind him it not all him in there.
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#7 of 11 Old 01-03-2009, 05:12 AM
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My mom is New Jersey Dutchy, basically desended from the Dutch speaking colonist who weren't all originally from the Nederlands (do not confuse with Pennsilvania Dutch, who are actually decended from Germans.) It's not simply "American" or "Nederlandish," the NJ Dutchies had a distict culture that was a blend of several European, Lenape, Tappan and African cultures. It is a distictly different culture from other colonies, such as the English Catholics who settled Maryland, or the English Quakers who settled in Pennsilvania, or the Spanish and Greeks who settled in Florida. There are books, historical societies and museums around NJ to learn about these things.

I would say you are a Virginian and (I think the people who settled Ohio had a word for themselves, but it slips my mind.) If you still live near Virginia or Ohio, look into local historical societies. Though many activities focus on either the Revolutionary or Civil wars, they usually have lecture sereis on the more cultural aspects that went on in peace time.

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#8 of 11 Old 01-03-2009, 09:37 AM
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I say I'm American and my daughter is half-American. I was raised in American culture, not English, German, Mexican, Scottish or whatever else. While the US is a young country, it still has its own distinct history and culture to identify with. The fact that it's such a diverse place may cause some confusion, but it's also a big part of its identity. I'm American, and what that means is I come from a very unique place full of diversity! In addition to explaining where your particular ancestors come from, explain too that nearly all of us Americans have ancestors that came from all over… why they did so and how that resulted in such a rich, diverse country and culture that you now live in. The fact that our culture is a lot newer than your DH's does not invalidate it as a culture.
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#9 of 11 Old 01-03-2009, 11:52 AM
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For whatever it's worth, my mom is American (Irish, Danish) and my dad is Mexican (Native mixed with British, Italian, Spanish). To them, it was very important that I never say that I'm half anything. I've always said, "I'm Mexican and American." Here in the U.S. that invariably leads to a discussion of the ancestry of my American family, but it rarely occurs to anyone that my Mexican ancestry is just as mixed.

It's interesting that my husband's family, which considers itself to be "pure Lebanese" also has stories about when their ancestors arrived in Lebanon from Yemen.

So, really, is there any culture that is really "pure"? I doubt it.

But as for what my "culture" is--I was mostly raised in Mexico within a mixed Mexican and American context. And the American part of that came from all over the U.S. from all sorts of backgrounds. But what differentiated it from Mexican was the value placed on personal independence and ingenuity. The Mexican side placed more value on obedience and family reputation. So I learned a bit of both, if that makes sense. I learned how to be respectful and obedient in social situations while still maintaining an independent sense of what I will do with my life.

There is a huge difference between the questions "what is your ancestry" and "what is your culture." So I would say that in your case, as in mine, your daughter is Indian and American. If that discussion leads to her American ancestry, then it's good she'll know all about that, too!

BTW, my parents have found a lot of fulfillment in travelling to various parts of Europe looking for both of their ancestral origins. They've read all about my mother's Irish ancestors and traveled to the part of Ireland where they're from. And they've read all about my dad's Italian and British sides, and found a castle in Italy that bears the family name. It's a neat thing they've done and passed onto us, and I hope to pass on that curiosity to my kids as well.

DS1: 2/02 ROTFLMAO.gif DD: 9/04 blahblah.gif DS2: 9/07jog.gif and EDD: 11/13 belly.gif

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#10 of 11 Old 01-07-2009, 02:27 AM
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DH & I were asked to put our ancestry on our marriage license, but there was only one tiny line. DH didn't know his ancestry (I've since learned it from talking with his grandmother) and I have just about everything European in me. My ggggg-grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War. So, I decided I was American. The clerk didn't want us to put that, but she couldn't come up with a good reason not to, so...

~ Robyn

Mom to Jackson, b. January 2006

and Cassandra, b. October 2011


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#11 of 11 Old 01-08-2009, 06:41 AM
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I also will self-describe as "Euro-American" because to trace back all the permutations and combinations is rather tedious unless people want to hear a long story.

For my kids, I do tell stories of their grannies and grandpas and ancestors on my side as far back as I know.

In Hong Kong people I might also be called a "Westerner" or a "European" - meaning that I look like someone whose ancestors came from Europe.

Originally Posted by Asha+Joy View Post
Personally, I go with Euro-American.

So when asked, I've no problem describing my ethnicity as Euro-American. It's the simplest, most honest answer
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