We posed the question to sources in our Public Insight Network, on Facebook and online: Who are you?
The responses we received offer a fascinating glimpse into how we define ourselves even as the definitions themselves change:
Who I am is as old as America. Mixed race: while it is being acknowledged in ways that are slightly different, it is nothing new. Why only now are we talking about the mixed composition of people’s complexion and ethnicity when it has been the reality for most Americans, especially African Americans for the past 400 years? I am–my son is America. We come from the African and European Diasporas as well as the indigenous peoples of this continent. People will call my son and I African American. It seems that we should not have to talk about this, but in America, we do. The discussion continues.
-Clarence White, St. Paul (he blogs here)
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. I moved with my family in 1997 when I was 16 and I have lived in Rochester and now in Burnsville. I’m married to a girl from Mexico as well and we have four children we are a very traditional family with very strong Spanish background. We have adopted the American culture as our own and we are teaching our children to understand and to care for both cultures, the Spanish and the American, so they can benefit from this changing environment and take advantage of the opportunities of being multicultural as I have. We also own a small business so we teach our children to work hard and reach their goals and do their part to live the American dream.
-Luis Magallon, Rochester
I am a Lebanese Christian American woman married to a Berber Muslim Algerian American man. In other words, an Arab Christian married to a Non-Arab Muslim. Every day of my life I am mindful of my race and ethnicity. I am extremely proud to be an Arab. Very proud of my loving, generous and hardworking immigrant husband. And very aware of the perceptions the outside world has of “people like us.”
-Lorie Haddad, Minneapolis
I’m an Irish-Catholic, fourth-generation St. Paulite. Have lived in only two zip codes in my life, and they are contiguous. My Irish-Catholic ethnicity is very much tied to place–St. Paul. My parents, grandparents and nearly all my friends are from St. Paul. My baptism & first communion, my sister’s wedding, and both of my parent’s funerals were held in the same church (Nativity). I could never live anywhere else.
-Paul Bard, St. Paul
I am a white Minnesotan of Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Kentuckian descent whose Scandinavian relatives have farmed in this area for over five generations (there is even a family cemetery in southern Minnesota) and whose rapscallion relatives have roamed the Iowan countryside teaching and inciting subtle feminism. I am a linguist and returned Peace Corps volunteer. I am a teacher of English to immigrants and refugees. I am an atheist and secular humanist. I am the mother of a nine-month-old baby whose father is half Mexican, half French Creole but considers himself simply American.
-Sarah Hernandez, Plymouth
I am a student and sometimes teacher. I don’t feel overwhelmingly attached to any of my ethnic backgrounds, of which there are at least four. I am American, female, raised middle class with college-educated parents. I’m the youngest of three, creative and moody, I like spicy food and I’m picky about movies. That description could fit many of my peers from many cities, no matter their convoluted combination of ethnicities.
-Leah Hunczak, St. Cloud
When one is raised tri-culturally as we are (an ethnic minority growing up in a transracial household in the upper midwest), the question of identification can be a loaded question. The answer I give depends on who YOU are and how you ask me. But for the purpose of this poll, I am Rupa: an East Indian adoptee.
I am a 31 year-old mother of two and wife to a great guy. We are both of German descent and feel that keeping that alive in our children is important. But we are Americans first.
-Melissa Timm, Hampton
I’m black and in a inter-racial marriage. My kids are bi-racial. We celebrate Loving Day every year. Our relatives and friends are in similar relationships. We chose a faith community that is multi-culturally inclusive. It’s our generational new norm however, being the one blessed with the most melanin in our family, I’m patently aware of clueless, insensitive jerks.
With the passing of my mother in 2009, I inherited her copious family files. The prize, a family bible with live births going back to the 1860s. I’ve also learned from a land deed out of Baton Rouge, LA that my great grandmother and her brother purchased plots of land after the war. They were creole. Freed. And I seized on their identity. In today’s lexicon, my kin are seen as being separate from both black and white races. And we, my present-day family has an outward racial identity that seems to give people social cues that don’t work with us. Because they no longer apply.
-Rachel Dykoski, Minneapolis
I’m a first generation Hmong French American immigrant woman who is married to a white American man of Polish descent. I am conscious of my cultural heritage and the impact of my outward characteristics (skin color, accent, racial group, etc.). I make a point to be a good ambassador for my community by debunking myths/stereotypes with my choices and lifestyles and aspirations while celebrating the richness of my culture without mystifying it.
-Kao Yongvang, Minneapolis
-Jeff Anderson, Duluth
We also spoke with a few people who responded for tonight’s All Things Considered. Give a listen:
So, who are you? Tell us here.