General Question

leeds's avatar

In the Usa you are identified first by your ethnic background.For example"African American"or"Italian American".Why is this?

Asked by leeds (93points) February 6th, 2009

This surely is a racist situation.
You are American or your not.
Laying claim to your country of blood seems to be an insult and like saying“first i am Italian and secondly i am American”.Just a thought because allegiance should be to the place you are born or naturalised.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

18 Answers

artificialard's avatar

Is this a real question or just lighter fluid?

leeds's avatar

A real question!

leeds's avatar

Due to the tender nature of this question i have asked it be removed .

artificialard's avatar

Well I would hazard a guess and say that when someone identifies themselves as Ethnicity-American it’s not a statement of allegiance, it’s an objective statement, a way to describe themselves.

Why the root ethnicity is ordered first is because in this case the prefix describes the type of American, but this person is in fact American. Much like you would say “cheese pizza” – the pizza is still pizza, it’s just specifically a cheese pizza.

laureth's avatar

America is the melting-pot, but even in a big bowl of stew, the flavors haven’t merged completely. And this is just a way of saying what contribution someone makes to the pot. If it all tasted the same, wouldn’t it be boring?

Plus, last I checked, “African” and “Italian” weren’t races, so I don’t quite get how this could be racist.

artificialard's avatar

And it’s not necessarily the ‘tender nature’ of the question so much as the nature of the tone you used that might be considered inflammatory.

You might’ve just asked “Why do people indentify themselves in this way, and not solely American even though they are American?” and left out the insinuations of anti-patriotism and racism (which don’t even really make sense in the context anyways…(

leeds's avatar

@art,Thanks,can i point out to you that the word “anyways“is nowhere near in context.
If i need correcting i will ask so please dont take the liberty in doing so.
Please do not make any assumptions regarding the structure of my question.
Casting aspersions is wrong and i resent it.

leeds's avatar

@laureth,theres me thinking that Italians were from Italy.
Also Africa had numerous countries within it, all not American.
So if you would like me to name them all…...silly.
You know where i’m at with it.

leeds's avatar

I have researched and found that Laureth is correct,Italians are from Kenya.
Silly boy that i am.
Stops following whilst rolling eyes.

EmpressPixie's avatar

1. Gentle correction is one of the many ways the Fluther-ers maintain this community, it is an accepted behavior here. It would do you well to be gracious about it, as that person was trying to be helpful.

2. Race refers to something different from nationality and ethnicity. “Italian” is not a race.

3. At this point, it is my belief you are being offensive merely to be offensive. While you stated this was not meant to be “lighter fluid”, you’ve been very aggressive which suggests it was, in fact, meant as lighter fluid. Your aggressive behavior elsewhere may shine a light on this in some way.

Kiev749's avatar

People using it as African-American or Latin-American is them trying to preserve their heritage. If I really wanted to I would say I am European-American because thats where my family immigrated from. There is nothing Racial or suggestive about it when people using the term X-American like that. They aren’t trying to infuriate people, They are trying to let you know where their family comes from.

marissa's avatar

First, I would like to say, that from my perspective (American), I don’t really agree with the statement “In the Usa you are identified first by your ethnic background”, simply because my personal experience doesn’t support that statement. Rarely, do I encounter someone who points out there ethnic/cultural background, unless it is appropriate to the conversation or situation. Also, I know when I have traveled to other countries, I have never clarified myself as being (..........)-American, just American (however, I don’t know if I’ve ever had to state that I was American, most people could tell from my language and such)

However, since I am American, I don’t know how it is perceived by others from other countries (ie you in Britain). So I will try to answer your original question and explain what context I see (........)-American being used and why.

When I or others around me have used their country of ancestry along with American, it has been in the context of identifying their cultural or historical family background. For example, if I tell someone I’m Irish-American, it is in the context of explaining my heritage or why my family has certain traditions that originate from Irish traditions. I find it is the same with Italian-Americans. As an example, it is an Italian tradition (originating from Italy) that cookies are served at weddings. Why do I know this? Because a friend of mine married an Italian-American and when I went to the wedding, there was a discussion about the wedding traditions that his family observed (Italian) and some of the wedding traditions her family observed (German). Never was the references to their family heritages (Italian and German) meant or used as a way of identifying their loyality to a given country or to their race, it was simply a way of honoring their family heritage.

The United States is unique in that many of the citizens living here today have a family heritage that originates from another country and usually more than one other country. I know that I could use more than just “Irish-American” for myself, but once again, I rarely have occation where this type of identification would be appropriate or necessary.

DrBill's avatar

So, if a white person was born in South Africa, then became an American citizen, would they be an African-American?

fireside's avatar

@DrBill – from my experience, direct immigrants usually identify themselves either by their country of origin or as simply “American” because they are so grateful to have a new place to call home. It’s really the descendants of immigrants who start to have trouble with the distinction or unique identification because they want to preserve/honor their heritage but still maintain their present identity.

Also, if it was just meant to be funny, i laughed : )

aprilsimnel's avatar

People from my own country ask me, “What are you?” And when I say, “American,” they say, “No, what are you REALLY?” which annoys me no end. Dammit, I was born in Buffalo. I pay my taxes. I vote. My family has fought for this country.

I’m not rattling off the whole ancestral roll call just so they can hear the one they want to hear, put me in their little mental box and satisfy themselves that the have the measure of me based on that.

It’s not just white people who ask. I’ve gotten this question from black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, Native American people, all saying, “Well, I can’t figure out what you are.” They can’t figure out “what I am” at first glance? I said I was American. Surely, that’s enough, right?

/end rant

cschack's avatar

An outsider’s perspective … I went to college in the US, and was always amused by this phenomenon. I remember going on dates and every now and then, my date would say something like “I guess you’re curious about my background” and I’d get a few generations worth of genealogy. It was usually quite interesting, but I always tended to think “Cool. That makes you … American!”

MissAnthrope's avatar

First of all, in scientific terms, there is no such thing as “race”, as we human beings are genetically similar enough.. unless you’re talking about the “human race”, which is scientifically accurate. What people refer to as “race” are simply phenotypic and cultural differences.

Thus, because America has so many different cultures and ethnicities, some people, who are proud of their heritage, choose to be identified by it. Which makes sense, seeing that one’s culture has a huge influence on who they are.

Secondly, there was a huge politically-correct movement in the 90’s and early 00’s (which thankfully seems to be dying back somewhat) that attempted to be sensitive to people’s ethnicities by not referring to them in the colloquial terms. Some people thought it was racist or insensitive to call people by their skin color, so there was effort made to make it about culture or country of origin, in addition the ”-American” part is a nod to their being Americans at the heart of it.

shilolo's avatar

@AlenaD. Super-great answer! With the advent of genomics (and the sequencing of multiple human genomes) it has become much clearer that there are no such thing as races (subspecies) within humanity. As the Human Genome project states

“DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other. Indeed, it has been proven that there is more genetic variation within races than exists between them. ”.

Thus, while people may hold on to their sense of ethnicity, that sense is not born out by genetics.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther