Tag Archives: Race Conversation

Self Identification

I’m a mutt.  I am born to a German mother and a Swedish father.  Both are pure descendants of their nationalities.  Dad has passed so I can’t ask him, but I recently asked my mother about her German heritage.

In her case, she was first generation American.  Her father, my grandpa, got off the boat from Germany.  Until he died, he spoke heavily accented English and his wife, my grandmother passed long before I was born, never truly spoke English.  Further, my grandpa fought in World War ONE!  For the Germans!

And so I asked my mother, when she grew up, who was “we” and who was “they”.  Her answer was that she grew up identifying America as “we”.  Watching the Olympics “we” was the USA.  “They” was Germany; West or East.

I don’t think she spoke any German, perhaps understood some, but it was English that was the household language.  And it was small town America that was the context, not German.

With a father born and raised in Germany, having fought for the Germans in The Great War, why would she grow up identifying as American?  Why not German-American?

Why do people, generations removed from African decent, refer to themselves as African-American?  At what point do people who descend from African nationals who have been in America for generations simply refer to themselves as Americans?