Last year my daughter was asked to fill in a bubble identifying her ethnicity (as were all the kids in the class). Any child that wasn’t sure which bubble to use went to the teacher and she looked it up on the computer from registration.
When the teacher told Jaeda that she was Hispanic, Jaeda became very upset and replied – I am not! My mom is from New York and my Dad is from Grand Junction!
Then she burst into tears.
I suppose it’s not really great mothering that prompted me to burst out laughing when I heard about this reaction, but when the teacher called to let me know about “the incident”, I laughed and still giggle when I think about it.
But – insert better parenting moment here – the tears concerned me, so at dinner that night we discussed ethnicity, culture, and the beautiful traditions and family history that comes with it.
“You know how we have beans and chili with our turkey on Thanksgiving? Yep, that’s part of your heritage.” I know this isn’t the extent of her Hispanic heritage, but to an 8 year old, food is a very tangible and easy to relate to example.
Jaeda was fine and I am not worried about my daughter, but I do wonder when exactly we are going to just be American?
My children have a very rich heritage (insert Heinz 57 here). Their Dad is more than 1/4 Navajo and the rest is Hispanic – but Hispanic in the sense that I speak better Spanish than he does. His great-great-grandparents were living in New Mexico when it was ceded to the United States.
On my side, my grandfather was born in Italy, but other than that I think the rest is hodge podge European – Scottish, British, French, Irish? I don’t even know.
When asked I say that I am Italian because I was raised by my father and that is the family he has the strongest ties to – but my kids are as much Navajo as they are Italian as they are Spanish or Mexican or British.
When filling out their ethnicity bubbles I chose to focus on the ethnicities that would most likely give them a college scholarship – Hispanic and American Indian. It isn’t a fabrication, they do have significant portions of these in their DNA, but they also have a variety of others too. To be honest, there really isn’t a bubble that fits their profile.
For my kids, what we really need is a Heinz 57 American option.
What about you? Are you Italian, Hispanic, Asian or just plain old American?