White mutts have no heritage

One of my professors assigned a heritage assignment. The idea is to find out what heritage you have. The rationale is that California is a diverse place with a variety of heritages.

She’s not a tough grader, and interviewing a relative would also be pretty easy. The problem is that I just don’t have a heritage.

I can tell by the look on her face that my professor wants to read about diverse, forward-thinking individuals who have a strong connection to their heritage.

I am neither. I’m white, and my family’s full of white mutts ethnically. Nobody alive remembers when we were anything else.

I say that somewhat sarcastically. I don’t have a heritage, at least in the way my professor should like to read. Not only are my parents and grandparents at least third- or fourth-generation Americans, but I had no cataclysm of insight or wisdom from hearing our heritage, no shocking realization of how much history repeats itself or how my family was affected.

The expectation is to have a strong ethnic identity, more than drinking green beer or eating bratwurst. I don’t. Realistically, I can’t.

My grandmother’s family settled in Missouri from Germany, and my grandfather’s ethnically English family farmed in Oklahoma to and through World War II. Both families moved here in the late 19th century. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather knew for sure why either family made the move, and neither really knows about when.

My grandfather supposes, from his knowledge of history and not family, that the reason we moved to the United States had to do with economic unrest in the home countries.

This is hardly the vivid, earth-shaking realization my professor wanted.

The objective of this assignment — to find out how marvelous and exciting and similar heritage stories are between myself and fellow students — is lost when I find out how silly, or boring or completely vague my family’s history is when compared to everyone else’s.

Instead of togetherness and a sense of community with my fellow students — something our class already had — I’m just lost.

I’ve never felt anything but American. It works for me.

I wish more people could feel this way without being violent bigots about it.


In other news: TIME’s political cartoon of the week; another presidential race becomes founded on trite pettiness; and crackpot might finally crack under the strain of truthiness.

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