How do you feel about talking about ethnicity?

Personally just to say I don’t like talking about ethnicity. When people ask me about my background even though I’ll answer neither them I actually don’t like them to ask nor do I like to ask others about theirs. It’s been that way for me ever since I had a very uncomfortable experience with a certain teacher who said and did some pretty questionable and suspicious stuff regarding ethnicity especially when it came to his own. At least a (lesson?) when it comes to regarding that stuff came out of it. People who get carried away by ethnic pride don’t seem to have this question in mind. What if they did not know what they’re background was? There are ways that this can happen. Let’s say for example that they were remarkably mixed looking orphans almost since birth who regardless of how hard they investigated couldn’t figure out anything about their family or background. You can take this even further by saying that they were born with congenital blindness so they can’t even distinguish between different ethnic groups. As a result of these factors I think that something like your background would be a concern of more minimized significance then it is for some people. Yet in either case whether the person is blind or not they do not have to heed to purported archetypes of an ethnic group and can still become highly accomplished and not having to be subject to the categories and traits having to do with ethnicity. It’s just that I have a very strong feeling that when you tell someone your background a whole bunch of preconceptions associated that ethnicity automatically pop up in their mind even the people who try to be culturally sensitive. On my end I don’t really care about other people’s backgrounds. I mean if they have like dietary restrictions, observe certain holidays or something to that effect then yeah I do care about that but practically nothing else because I try to be all inclusive in matters like ethnicity even though I will admit I have found it VERY tempting at times to give in to thoughts of preconceptions. The vices that come from people getting carried away with that stuff like discrimination, racism, war, genocide etc. is absurd. It’s made me wonder at times what if an ethnic pride (but note not culture or the ethos of an ethnic group) were not allowed similar to how religion hasn’t been allowed at times for ideological reasons (I mean yeah there would probably be stuff practised underground but that thought almost makes me feel like writing a “soft sci-fi” short story or something about that).Let see how people who react to that!,huh?.I would really like to make a point that there’s a significant distinction between culture and ethnicity. I got that after reading “Light at the edge of the world” by Wade Davis years ago when he mentioned about the ethos that certain ethnic groups have. I got this even more after reading the essay at the back of the photography book “In search of dignity” by Gunter Pfannmuller with a preface by Wade Davis and (I think) an essay at the back by Wilhelm Klein. It to dealt with ethnicity, ethos and culture (and even though I really disagreed with the part about the like philosophy of compassion being developed by Buddhism and then spreading westwards and into Christianity the rest of) the essay almost made me cry because I felt that it was so right on in describing those things and how like utterly weakened,disregarded and moribund something so irreplacable like that actually is in the modern world and made me think that what’s usually considered pride in ethnicity and culture is a distortion of what those things actually mean if there is one at all. I’m very sorry if I opened a can of worms but that’s just how I feel. I’d appreciate any replies and thank you very much so for your time.

First off, your post is very difficult to read. I would suggest you use short paragraphs in the future.

Regarding ethnicity, certainly we need to avoid ethnic stereotypes and exaggerated concepts of race and ethnicity. We need to recognize that people are individuals, and also that ethnicities are fluid, changing things. Just because you are half English (hypothetical example) doesn’t mean all your ancestors on that side of the family lived in England from the beginning of time. They likely arrived over many centuries from many different peoples in any case, and trace it back far enough and you may even get to, say, an African and a Syrian living in the Roman Empire, Huns invading Europe from the East, etc.

There’s also the problem of associating an ethnicity with one location indefinitely. I’ve had ancestors in former New Netherland (specifically New York and New Jersey) since at least the 1640s, but by most modern people’s standards I’m still not a Native American. Granted there are other natives who have had ancestors here for millennia and that antiquity is something to be honored, but really a person is a native of the country they were born and raised in regardless of ancestry, and all the more if they have at least a few generations of ancestors in that land, so it can be “the land of cradles and graves” for them. That’s true even if they retain memory of lands their more distant ancestors lived in in the past.

Ultimately though I think you are taking a good thought too far. Ethnicity, or ancestral nationality or whatever you want to call it, is a part of someone’s family history, and it’s good to remember and honor that heritage. Part of knowing who we are is knowing where we came from. Yes, differences in origin can lead to tensions between different groups in a multiethnic society and this should be avoided, but that doesn’t mean we should eliminate interest and even a healthy sort of pride in our ancestral heritage entirely.

  I'm sorry it was difficult to read (I find forums are kind of difficult to write in proper paragraphs at times with previews not looking like your writing and what not) and I'm sorry for being a bit late on responding.I never said that disregarding your family history and ethnicity is bad.It should be embraced but what ussaully happens these days is that no one seems to care about that only loudly proclaiming and seemingly embracing their ethnicity when a significant triumph happens for their ethnicity but disregarding other aspects of it such as it's historical development for the rest of the time.Knowing about the history of an ethnicity is something that IMO is actually good.This espeically goes for those who are unfortunately "the last of their kind" and/or speakers of a dying language,I think.I agree with how (you nicely worded) that ethnicities are fluid and changing.Unfortunately with today's world ethnic groups espeically native ones seem to be disappearing instead of developing stably devolping along side the common controlling group.If you read any of the books I mention in the OP I think you'll get a better idea of what I mean.

        Here's an example of when "ethnic pride" is misdirected though.I remember that years ago during the '05 Euro cup (whichever one Greece won recently) a certain ethnic group in my school was ferociously cocky for weeks about their team.One girl even said bad things to another girl about Spain's team losing and the taunted girl said that she's not from Spain.A second example from a few years after that is the the disturbing experince I had with the teacher I mentioned who whenever his ethnicity was mentioned he'd say loud and angirly "WAIT A MINUTE THAT'S AN INSULT TO ME BECAUSE I'M [said ethnic group]".I swear that could easily have be one of that guy's catch phrases and I swear there were times when I thought he was a member of some supremisist group or something like that.

   I started to see how bad being that way about your ethnicity really is which is why ever since I have'nt liked bringing up that topic becuase of it's touchiness and to avoid people like that and/or their similar reactions.However as to your last paragraph I dont really understand what you mean by "I think you are taking a good thought too far".Do you mean the one about ethnic pride?.

*As a personal aside I find it extremely disappointing that most people dont know what a *mestizo *is,Spain’s colonial caste system from centuries ago (basically was a product of a HUGE society creating miscegenation).I think that would really help people understand Hispanic people much better espeically in parts where there’s not that many (ex.Houston,Texas,.U.S. vs. Hamilton,Ontario,Canada).

To start with, ‘ethnicity,’ ‘race,’ and ‘culture,’ are things we make up. Biologically speaking, they don’t mean much, and there’s no point pretending they don’t exist.

If you know where I live, you would think I was likely this or that and maybe that too. If you heard me on the phone, you’d probably guess I was this or that. My given name and surname are ambiguous. When people see my face, they often make the most random guesses as to my background. And when I go abroad, the rules often change completely.

But there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s not held against me. And I’m all right with people making involuntary preconceptions – even I do it – as long as they don’t hold it against me.

As a person of colour, I am very proud of my mixed heritage. I grew up in a diverse city and neighbhourhood where almost everyone was comfortable with each other, to the point that we still trade “racist” jokes affectionately. But there’s a time and a place for being cheeky like that. Are you sure that your schoolmates weren’t being cheeky?

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