White Americans: Are you a "hyphenated American"

I’m a white US citizen, and if I was feeling cheeky I suppose I would say I’m African-American :slight_smile:

More seriously, I suppose I’d have to identify as a hyphenated South-African-American, as unwieldy as that is. I feel pretty assimilated into American culture and have lived here 7 years, but I’ve always been surrounded by a fairly international crowd and have only been an American for 6 months: I think I’ll retain quite a bit of my original culture. If I was born here to a South African parent I probably would almost 100% consider myself American.

I have opened a pit thread in your honour.

Altho I am almost purebred Irish, I was born here as were my parents so no hyphen here. Never really seen any positive reason to do it anyway and I really don’t like it when others do it, particularly if they were born here.

What the heck is a White American? A WASP?

I’m of Scots-Irish decent, but that culture plays absolutely no role in my life. It was just an interesting tidbit I happened to learn. Far more interesting was how my last name changed over the centuries, having dropped the O’ and gained a new syllable. And how we must have split off before another letter was dropped.

No WASP means White Anglo-Saxon Person, i.e. English-American. The best you’d get for white would be European-American. Generally it wouldn’t be used because they consider white the default and thus no special term is needed.

i think it’s white anglo-saxon protestant.

I think I’ve heard both, but now that you mention it, I’m pretty sure you’re right. That does seem to be a better fit.

This for me. American period. Or US Citizen.
I’ll lower my likability another notch and state that if I felt the need to hyphenate, it would be because I more wanted to be a citizen of the hyphen country.

On one side, I have my grandfather immigration papers; on the other we were here almost 100 years before the revolutionary war. Without using words like Germanic (very broadly Germanic at that) I can’t describe my ethnicity usefully other than American.

It says more about who I am, and what my family’s like to say that I grew up in the northern midwest than hyphenation is capable of.

None of the above. By most standards I’m white, but my ancestry really spans about half the globe. So there aren’t really any hyphenated names that apply. However that doesn’t mean I think of myself as white or American. I am an American citizen by birth and my skin tone as well as my upbringing are pretty white. None of that really matters to me though. I think of myself as me not as a member of a group.

In my youth, I declared myself to be Polish-American. My paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents settled in the US after leaving Poland in the early 1900s. We were very much involved in the Polish-American community in Baltimore - my dad and uncle hosted a radio show, my sisters danced with a folk dance group, my mom and I sang in a community chorus, and we practiced some of the traditions at home and ate some of the traditional foods.

After I was an adult living on my own, I realized that while my family came from Poland, I’ve never been there, I don’t speak the language, and I know very little about specifically where my family came from or what they did before they emigrated. It seemed silly to attach the nationality to myself. So if anyone asks or cares, I’ll label myself as an American of Polish extraction.

It always struck me as odd that people take pride in their bloodline - as if they had anything to do with it. Maybe I’m just hung up on the word… Don’t get me wrong, I find family traditions to be interesting, especially when their roots can be traced to the “old country.” But to say I’m proud to be descended from peasants who came to this country for a better life which ultimately led to my accomplishments - I don’t know, it doesn’t compute for me.

Oh, and I don’t think about being “white” unless I have to fill out some form that requires an answer for race.


On my father’s side I can trace a line of ancestry back to the Mayflower. My mother came to America through Ellis Island. I’m very American indeed.

American mutt here. My German, Irish and Polish ancestors all arrived in the US in the 1800s. My grandparents retained a bit of their respective European cultures, which I had some awareness of when I was a kid. My parents dropped all of that and considered themselves simply American.

On occasion I’ll identify as Irish-American. I’m told my father (son of immigrants) used to get beat up as a kid for being a “foreigner.” Never heard it from him since he died so young–leaving a red, white & blue flag as his heritage.

Living in a diverse city, I enjoy people who’ve got interesting backgrounds to add to the mix. They get extra points if those backgrounds include good food & music.

My melanin deficiency links me with the other folks in the clinic waiting for our yearly skin cancer screening but I’ve never bothered to identify myself as “White.” Some of my best friends are white folks but focus on “whiteness” is a bore. And a code word for racism & xenophobia…

I have no idea what my ancestry is so I reckon I’m just American.

Wait, can I be Memphian-American?


No hyphen needed or wanted.
Ima keepin my cherry, thank you.

another vote for “American”. I was born here. My parents were born here. 3 of 4 grandparents were born here & the 4th arrived here as a toddler. Of the 8 greatgrandparents I know of 2 foreigners for sure, 2 locals for sure & suspect the other 4 were mostly or completely local. Before that I have clue & no interest.

I like Dr. Drake’s resoponse above. For local-borns, your cultural upbringing is more important than the location of your genetic heritage. Unless you grew up in a cultural enclave, spoke the language at home, & lived a bunch of the traditions, then you’re not a whatever-American.

I’d say this applies *almost *as well to folks who are other-than-caucasian. Are you really Korean-American if you have the typical ethnic facial features but you & your parents were born here & your upbringing was indistinguishable from your white-bread Ohioan neighbors? I think not.

Heh. I admit, I don’t understand this, but that’s mostly because I get the other end of the stick - “You’re so American you’ve forgotten your culture and history,” and unspoken are the words race traitor.

I hope when you say this to people, you’re intending to offend them. If you said this to me at a party, I’d quit speaking to you right there.

But when I say I’m Polish-American, I’m not trying to say that I’m Polish. I’m saying I’m a Polish-American- you have to read it as a whole. So what I’m saying is that I eat the food, say a few of the words, dance the dances, and have other family traditions that come from my Polish background. I even look Polish. I don’t know why people have to act like I’m either a) denying my American status, or b) trying to claim culture I don’t have.

IMHO, you’re making the mistake that others are making. You think that in order to be a whatever-American, you have to be an American brought up with Whatever culture. But that’s not what it means to be hyphenated. It means to be brought up not in a Whatever culture, but in a Whatever-American culture. And Whatever-Americans are different than Whatevers. I don’t know why people expect them to be the same. To have a hyphen means to have a fused culture. It’s some things from the old country and some things from America. It doesn’t mean someone that’s through-and-through a Whatever but just happens to be born in America.

As you said, your cultural upbringing means more than your genes. And my cultural upbringing was as a Polish-American, not as a Pole. There’s a difference. I’ll keep my hyphen, thank you very much.