Ethnic Background Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:26:25
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Category: Race

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I was born into a mixed family much like Tigers. My mothers father was Chinese-American, orphaned by his birth-family and raised in the South. My mothers mother was African-American and, following the family legacy, she received a degree from Fisk University in Nashville, TN. My relatives were instrumental in the foundation of the Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, SC, an educational institute for African-Americans founded in 1865 (now associated with the College of Charleston). My mother grew up in a segregated society where choices were rarely available.

She received her Masters degree in Library Science from HBC University. My fathers family is of German/Scottish/Irish/Danish decent. When faced with racial classification forms, I often check every box that is representative of my family history and the home in which I was raised Black/African-American, Asian-American and Caucasian. Selecting only one box would be denying my familys ethnic mix. Often I have wished I had more predominantly ethnic physical characteristics such as darker skin or traditional Chinese folds in my eyelids, easily definable physical characteristics instead of my mixed features.

In high school I traveled to Israel where many people would immediately speak to me in Hebrew assuming that I was Israeli. When I was living abroad in Finland, many Finns would assume I was Sami (Eskimo) and without hesitation, speak to me in Finnish. And traveling in South Korea, people would come up to me asking about my Asian heritage saying You are Asian. Who is Asian in your family? I was surprised to learn that it isnt only an American desire to classify ethnic identity, but a universal desire to categorize people by their race or ethnic background.

I have been raised in a very happy family, a household complete with a mother, father and one sister, Rebecca. Our ethnic identity is best identified as an American melting pot. I am always fascinated to meet people who are primarily one culture; for example, my husbands family is Irish, a marriage between an OSullivan and an OConnor. Every summer the OConnors return to Ireland to visit family. Ironically, since acquiring my husbands last name, people assume and accept without hesitation that Im Irish. I have curly hair like a good Irish

girl or often hear, Susannah OConnor sounds like a good Irish name. Judging by my married name alone, I have been shuffled into the Irish-American-Caucasian check-box. I was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. Silver Spring was a diverse community, our neighbors were Yugoslavian, Korean, Italian, and included many others. There were many ethnic-specific markets and restaurants near our house where we tried many different foods. Our community pool was located in a conservative orthodox Jewish section of Silver Spring.

Outside of swim season, our family was included in many Passover seders, sukkoh parties and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs through relationships developed on our swim team. I felt comfortable in our culturally dynamic neighborhood and felt fewer pressures to be classified into a specific ethnic category. When I was in middle school my father inherited his parents house and our family made an uncomfortable transition to Chevy Chase, Md. In contrast to the Silver Spring community, Chevy Chase is a White, upper-class, wealthy suburb of Washington, DC.

Many of our neighbors belonged to one of the three local country clubs that, until just a few years ago, did not admit minorities. Other than neighborly requests for babysitting duties, our family has rarely been invited to or included in community events within our neighborhood. Luckily, my parents have actively welcomed and encouraged our extended family to celebrate many holidays together in Chevy Chase, regardless of the homogeneity of the community. My parents have included friends and family with a variety of personalities, ethnicities and cultural associations into my life which has only enhanced my diverse upbringing.

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