Monday, May 16, 2011

Generational Differences

I’ve been thinking lately about immigration and assimilation

I remember the first (and only?) time someone differentiated between myself and their self by referring to themselves as ‘white’. It was the first time that it ever occurred to me that I might not be the generic, cookie cutter that I thought I was. I kind of thrilled at the thought of ‘not being white’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m about as caucasian as they come. My mother’s side of the family emigrated from the UK and my dad’s family came over from Italy. That settles us pretty firmly in the broad range of ‘caucasian’. It does not, however, make me ‘white enough’ for some people to actually consider me ‘white’ --which I don’t really want anyway. I’m proud of my heritage and wouldn’t exchange it for anything else.

While I embraced this difference, my grandparents weren’t so keen on the story when I told them. In my mind, it was an example of how proud I was of being Italian and how great it was to be part of a diverse history. To them, it was a slight of the worst kind. Their families went through a lot to be accepted. In their eyes, to not be considered white was to be called a second-class citizen.  While they are definitely still proud of their heritage, not being considered 'white' was a reversion to the exclusionary tactics they faced and what they had finally 'overcome'.

What's with the difference of opinion between generations? And, given what their families went through, why aren't they more compassionate toward the current wave of immigrants coming to the US?
Post a Comment