©Fernando Caracena 2014
What is Ethnicity?
Ethnicity is basically the operating system behind the way we think—the mental frame of reference. It is not necessarily based on someone's physical appearance, but perhaps it is reflected in their dress and behavior. In the U S, the term is used as a catch-all for race, where no physical racial or genetic varieties are involved. Already, race is a social construct, the genetic differences between perceived variety of human beings on the planet not being enough to constitute true biological races.
The term 'ethnicity' is being misused in the U S as a means of dividing people based on a mirage. Historically, immigrants came on the scene here, wearing funny clothes, having funny habits, eating strange food and having funny speech patterns, But, after a generation or two, those quirky characteristics disappeared. Their children, if they were from Europe, learned quickly to adapt to the local scene and customs, and they became just part of the mainstream by marriage and customs.
In the past, perceived racial differences mattered. The US was a racist country, racial mixing was almost non-existent. Even so, some 'white' Americans have found that they have a trace of distant African DNA, for example, see here. But, ethnic differences alone, between two groups having no appreciable physical differences tend to dissappear.
The reason that ethnicity can be a lifetime marker is that a lot of human beings learn new things only as children, and cease thereafter. A few humans continue to learn and adapt to the mainstream culture throughout their lifetimes allowing their physical characteristics remain somewhat constant, except for ageing. So, the majority of people can be ethnically typed by some in the social sciences. People who continue to learn and change throughout their lifetimes, however, are really ethnically moving targets. They are cosmopolitan.
What ethnicity counts in the U S
In the United States, the ethnicity that counts is that of being from very old and rich families. This is the ethnicity that gains its members favorable entry into those levels of society otherwise perceived as guarded by a glass ceiling. Once in, a family's mediocre descendants can gain access to Ivy League Schools, graduate with a gentlemanly C-averages, go on to become billionaires, and maybe even do a stint of high public service.This is the hereditary class of people that becomes entrenched in almost every civilized society. In more honest societies it is called an aristocracy, that is, a hereditary a ruling class. In the U S, people fool themselves into thinking that there is no aristocracy here. European titles are only honorary here, the law forbids us to take them seriously. So what we have is a crypto-aristocracy.
The glass ceiling
We speak of our country as being a land of opportunity; and it has been for those who become members of the upper middle class through study and hard work. But there is that glass ceiling. Those who historically have gone beyond it, and have become super-rich have made the first step in breaking the invisible barrier. If their families continue to make more money, and extend their influence in society, they will eventually blend into the money and power elite. Family wealth is a great leveler. In Europe, it brings commoners into the aristocracy; but in Europe, great personal accomplisment also provides an alternative route.
Current take on ethnicity in the U S
Ethnicity, as it is now used in the United States is a sanitized term for handling problem areas in out society. It masks a politically correct way of propagating prejudices, or politically dividing up the votes to distract the citizenry from the real issues.
The big distortion in our social conditions in the Western Hemisphere happened because of slavery and genocide, which our ancestors were guilty of, no matter what part of Europe they were from. The deep enmity between Europeans in the past also established fault lines of prejudice in the New World. Religious and cultural differences morphed into prejudices, which have now been coded into a hardened legalized view in the U S.
Racial prejudice is fading among the masses, but government opposes the trend.
The population at large has moved a long way into better feelings and thoughts about other people. Racism has faded in the general population. I look at people in restaurants and public places and see black guys escorting beautiful blond women. The big institutions, both governmental and religious, preach against racism. But racism remains, where? It is embedded in the big institutions themselves. The Federal Government tracks the race and/or the elusive "ethnicity" of every citizen. Many countries have abandoned placing racial labels on their citizens. Why has the central government of the U S held on to this primitive practice? Maybe if the problem went away, then the large expensive bureaucratic law-enforcement apparatus created to enforce anti-racist laws might look silly and a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money. Why does a big non-personal entity that already looks quite assinine need to save face? We see where the problems of prejudice have their root in the U S government itself.
Fear of loss of U S culture
One form that racial prejudice has morphed into is the concern that we may lose our culture as a result of the invasion of those stocky, little brown people that sneak across our southern border and take our menial jobs that no one here seems to want to do. They cannot even speak English, nor do they seem to want to learn it. Then the (racist) government forces bilingualism on us. Who knows, where will the U S of A culture end up?
Are we in danger of losing our culture? These are the great fears being sprayed on our population by the infotainment media: that our borders are porous; that we are being invaded by people who do not have our values; who cannot nor want to be assimilated; who will destroy our culture. Guess what, our culture has historically been subject to change by foreign elements as a variety of immigrants have flooded our shores from Europe, Asia and Latin America. At various times, one of those groups was considered by the news media as the problem. And yet, our culture has been enriched, not impoverished by immigration. I celebrate pizza, beer, wine, brie, moo goo gai pan, sauerkraut, falafel, gelato, flan, gazpacho, minestrone, matzo ball soup, tapas, paella, tacos, lentels, fava beans, naan, tortillas, wraps, burritios, napoleons, éclairs, black beans and rice (moros y cristianos), the great breads of Europe, Spanish rice, French toast, German pancakes, Bavarian cream, Irish cream, etc. What I do not celebrate is the great con-the-masses part of our culture, otherwise known as “Don't give a sucker an even break.” Especially, since the term sucker has been applied progressively to the middle class.
What is great about America
The constitutionally recognized, God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at a practical level produced prosperity, variety and enrichment of our culture, which counters with a trend for it to homogenize into a large entropic pool of sameness.
What is great about America is its broad middle class who have transformed various ethnicities into a great national culture; although that culture is masked by the tinsle-front pseudoculture pushed by the corporate bait-and-switch, schlock peddlers. The great American middle class—based on personal achievement—is what makes this country what it is. This is the part of us that we should preserve. To do this, we must return to basics.