Are you ethnic?

My initial thoughts on this question focused on European Americans. I am vaguely aware of my Irish-German heritage. But I am pretty much a generic white guy who is American. Other than my mom baking Irish soda bread at Thanksgiving, and knowing the difference between Shanty Irish and Lace Curtain Irish from my grandmother I don’t really feel any connection to Ireland, the Irish, or Irish culture.

In my youth (1970s), I did live in a predominantly Irish-American neighborhood. Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, Jews, Afican-Americans, Haitians, Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans all had there own neighborhoods. And I vaguely recall the IRA not being viewed especially as terrorist organization. Though I wouldn’t say there was active support. I don’t recall any racial discord at least in my school friends of the various groups, although I’m sure it existed city wide. Other than vague knowledge I was “Irish”. there were no Irish Cultural events, learning Gaelic, or Irish food (not even sure what Irish Cuisine entails)

We moved to LA, and I was no longer, “Irish”. I was white. Spanish speakers were “Mexican”. Blacks were black.

Later in life I moved to the Minnesota, where “white” people seemed quite in tune with their Scandavian roots. even specifically Swedish, Norwegian etc. Which I found odd.

Have you retained your European ethnicity, be it Irish, Swedish, Greek, Moldovian, etc. And how so?

Expanding on my initial thought, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and other “Asian” ethnic groups are as distinct from each other as a Swedes and Greeks. But seem to get lumped into the catch-all “Asian-American”. Do you consider yourself Japanese-American or Generic Asian guy who is American? Would your mom be upset if you married a Vietnamese?

With African-Americans involuntarily stolen from Africa and sold into slavery, their initial ethnic group has been lost to time. But do black Haitians or black Brazilians or more recent African immigrants (or their descendants) identify as “African-Americans”

Same goes for Latino-Americans. Are you a generic Latino guy who is American or a Honduran-American, El Salvordean-American, Mexican- American?

And for all, what keeps you ethnic rather than generic racial category.

No, I don’t think I have any relevant ethnic identity that I cling too. I don’t know what my family background is any further back than my parents and nor do I care.
I’m british but don’t identify as british, I’m quite white but I certainly don’t identify as “white” (not even sure what either of those concepts would mean). I’ve felt very much at home in such places as Japan, Italy, Sweden, Puerto Rico and could easily see myself being full members of those societies without any need to reference my origins.

I’ve never understood the special relevance of “roots”. I’m an individual and the complicated sum of my influences but ancestors just aren’t important to me.
I’m as interested in cultures that have nothing to do with me as I am with where my grandparents come from (in fact I’d say demonstrably more so). Indeed, I worked for a Japanese company for many years as a young man and the cultural impact on me from that was far more influential than the town where I was born.

I have Maori ancestors and am tempted to identify as a white New Zealander with Maori ancestry but I actually have more Irish and Scandinavian ancestry. The truth is I’m just a New Zealander.

While I appreciate your input as a British person, I do think this is a uniquely American question.

I think of “British” as a nationality, not an ethnicity. Not sure how things work over the pond, but are you English, Scotch, Welsh, Northern Irish, an Anglo or Saxon, an Anglo Saxon, Norman? I know you said you are “white”, but what of British citizens of Pakistani origin?

If you moved to Japan permanently and obtained citizenship would you consider yourself Japanese or a British guy who lives in Japan. I kinda doubt any ethnically Japanese people would consider you Japanese.

I realize America has racial/ethnic/religious issues dominated by “white people” but “American” is a nationality, not an ethnic group.

If you say you are not from Ireland, don’t speak Irish, etc., then I don’t see who might consider you ethnically Irish. (We are talking about ethnicity, not simple racism where it’s others who assume whether you are black or white and whether Irish are black or white that week). Similarly, the dark-skinned Mauritanian immigrant is probably not ethnically African-American, even though he has a different experience than you with the cops. Roots are not always an overwhelming factor, either. For instance, both your parents might be Japanese, you speak the language fluently and so on and you might think you have retained Japanese ethnicity, but if you move to Japan yourself you will discover otherwise. But you may have a unique Japanese-American ethnicity, and similarly some Scandinavian-Americans may be proud of that fact. On the other hand, some people may have their own reasons for at least outwardly blending into the mainstream culture, though.

Anyway, it sounds like you yourself are not Irish or particularly Irish-American, but you certainly have some variant of a mainstream American ethnicity— aren’t there uniquely American customs and a national identity? In what culture did the Norwegian-Americans and the Somali-Americans grow up?

You are right though that there is always a debate as to whether ethnic identities are a haphazard construction, political instruments, completely artificial, and to what degree. If I were you I would take them with a grain of salt as ethnicity is by nature dynamic and fuzzy and even artificial from a certain point of view.

What? Why?

Another Brit here, and I’m going to also give my 2 pence:

I’m mixed race; my father was English, with some French ancestry way back when, and my mother is Jamaican. I’m on the light end of mixed so people often guess I’m South American or whatever.

Growing up, I wish I could say I was proud of my ethnicity, but that wouldn’t be true; I hid it and spent a lot of effort trying to make my hair look more like my peers’. When people guessed I was South American, I’d often tell them that they were right.

Later in life I was ashamed of all this, but when I’ve told stories like this to other mixed-race people, it’s actually a very common experience.

Nowadays, I’m happy to talk about my ancestry, and black history etc. I would probably consider myself as belonging to the bracket of “ethnic minority” but I don’t identify as anything in particular.

IMHO, I consider myself a generic American guy who is ethnically Chinese and Jewish. By which I mean, I celebrate Chinese New Year every year; and some of my favorite dishes from my childhood (and in general!) are distinctively Shanghainese; I keep packs of chopsticks and tons of fireworks in my home; I have a different name in that language; my family (and possibly me) fits certain Chinese stereotypes; etc. But also I had a bar-mitzvah; I speak and read bits of Hebrew (less today than in the past); I’ve picked up a handful of Yiddish words; I spent years studying Torah and attending synagogue; I celebrate some Jewish holidays; I’ve eaten lots of ethnically Jewish food, too. Oh, and I have a different name in that language, too.

The food is a big part of my heritage. Like, some of my friends look back fondly on their Mom’s meatloaf or something. I’ve got dee pun (a roast pork dish) and gefiltefish (poached whitefish). Not in the same meal, mind you!


Do you identify as English (as opposed to Scottish or Welsh etc.)? Which I know isn’t the same as ethnicity, I’m just curious.

I identify as Coloured.

Here it’s used as a racial classification (Would be “Mixed” or “Biracial” elsewhere), but it’s actually more of an ethnic one (or, in fact a group of related ethnicities with sub-classifications - which might include Cape Coloured (my subgroup), Cape Malay, Griqua, etc) For instance - Trevor Noah is mixed-race, but he’s not ethnically Coloured.

While I am more specifically Cape Coloured, I have close family who are more likely to identify as Cape Malay, or Filipino, or White.

kinda getting to the heart of my question.

Another Brit here?..the question is about ethnicity. Brit is a nationality.
So you are not ethnic. You are a generic British person with English, French, and Jamican heritage.

Just as I am a generic American person with Irish-German heritage.

I am not proud of being Irish-German, I am just vaguely aware that my ancestors came from Ireland and Germany. I don’t identify as Irish or German.

British is an ethnicity. Some 81% of residents in the UK identify as ethnically “White British”. England hasn’t been an independent country for some 300 years.


So what’s a Pakistani citizen of the UK?

Firstly I don’t think ethnic means what you think it means. Plenty of people that wouldn’t hesitate to say their nationality was British would give a different answer when asked about their ethnicity.

But secondly, you just said that the question is just for Americans, and you said that America is a nationality, not an ethnicity. So, your objection makes no sense in your own terms. If someone who identifies as a nationality fails at being “ethnic”, and only Americans are allowed to participate in this thread, then the number of affirmative responses should necessarily be zero.

I refer you to the 2011 census, which lists “Pakastani, Pakastani Scottish, or Pakastani British” as an option under the Asian section.


ahh. so they are asian

Pakistan is located on the continent of Asia. I wouldn’t ascribe anything else to the organization of ethnicities on a census form. I wouldn’t think Brits go around calling their Pakistani compatriots “Asians”, nor would I think Pakistani British identify much with say, Chinese British from Hong Kong.


Apparently British Citizens use the term ethnicities differently.

Actually, it looks like “Asian” in British English refers to South (and not Southeast) Asia. So Chinese and Japanese would not be considered “Asian”. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc would. Maybe one of the other participants can clarify this for me.


We are definitely not using the term ethnicity the same way.

Are we? What are you referring to then?