My wife is a Slovak-American because she was born there. Her brother is not a Slovak-American because he was born here. He is an American of Slovak descent.
That's kind of funny. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The American citizens from Serbia call themselves "Serbs." ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The kids of the immigrants call themselves "Serbs." ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The ones whose great great great grandparents came from the Balkans and who don't know how to say hello in Serbian call themselves "Serbs." ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
My father-in-law was born in a Polish part of a town in PA. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š His father was half Polish and half Slovak. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š His mother was Slovak. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Ask him what his ethnic group is: ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Polish. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Ask him WHAT he is and he'll say "American". ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š There's a difference between genetic background, ethnic identity, cultural identity, and national identity.
We went to Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend with my folks. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š My mother wanted to visit her cousins. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š My kids were then exposed to the cousins I grew up with, who look very different from us. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š They have dark skin and black hair, but we are close. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š My mother's half-sister was there. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Her kids, my half-first cousins, play stick ball and say "O-si-yo" for a greeting and ask "do-hi-tsu?" ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Last night my light-haired four-year-old pointed at a picture of a native american kid and said, "He's like me." ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Well, he was and he wasn't. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š My cousins and my mom make dang sure I get the tribal paper, which I read. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I read my son the really great kid's stories. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š He is a citizen of the tribal government. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š But he's not Native American and neither am I. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š (The BIA says we are since we all have to have registered numbers like cattle).
Then I had to re-explain to him his mother's family. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š How they came from Slovakia and, for some of them, from a place in Poland about two miles from the border with Slovakia, and tell him what that means for him and why he's different from his cousins in Oklahoma. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š We eat primarily Slovak food in our home. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š At Christmas we celebrate the way the Slovaks do. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Then we have a Slava like Serbs. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
Some here, I'm sure, will say that my son has no right to call himself anything. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I've heard that argument before. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Leave people in some sort of cultural wasteland where they aren't anything. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I usually get this talk from people who grew up in America and wear t-shirts that say "FBI-Full Blooded Italian". ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š They usually don't speak Italian, eat and Burger King, drink Budweiser "beer" and don't go to mass.
As I have explained in another thread, ethnicity is defined as "groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background." ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
The "or cultural origin or background" is very important. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The Serbs who go to my church who are Americans through and through, could very well still be ethnic Serbs. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š They don't need anyone's permission to recognize that fact. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š The semantics of who is Serbian-American, of Serbian decent, etc. is generally an issue when one group is trying to exclude another group for political reasons.
It is unhelpful to say that someone is Slovak-American because they were born there (and, possibly, don't even remember being there) and then calling a sibbling something else because they were born here, while they both grew up in the exact same culture and the exact same environment. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š It has no purpose as it doesn't mean anything about WHO the individual is. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š If my wife and I went to China and had a kid there and then came back, would the kid be "Chinese-American" since he/she was born there? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Of course not!
In our complicated, multi-ethnic society every houshold is different. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Sometimes our individuals homes become a single ethnic group. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š For "clubs" and other "organizations," defining who is a member of that organization is important. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š It serves to narrow membership and focus. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š That's great. ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š But it doesn't give these clubs and organizations the right to dictate what a person is ethnically or culturally and how that person defines himself. That is, unless you're Native American and then you are defined by your "degree of blood" by universities, states, the BIA, and the tribe itself.
If that's the model some of you ethnic "purists" want to go to, I suggest you live in it for a while. It's a lot of fun.