Comments on Optional Ethnicities
Ignorance is a hard thing to admit. However, the more I read and learn in this class, the more I realize that I am not even aware of the issues some people deal with on a daily basis.
One of the topics that never crossed my mind before the reading was the idea of an optional ethnicity (Ore, 29). It is so true but I have never been conscious of this concept. For example, I consider myself a â€śwhite, middle-class femaleâ€?. However, my familyâ€™s heritage is deeply rooted in the German culture. Both sets of my grandparents grew up speaking German. I still have distant (2nd cousins or such) that live in Germany that I had the privilege of meeting. Yet, for the most part, I am never viewed as â€śGerman,â€? unless of course I am craving for the feelings of â€śspecialnessâ€? (Ore, 33) that can be associated with having a cultural identity.
I never considered this voluntary association with my German heritage as a privilege, but it truly is an option that some people may not have. Because I do not look, speak, or act differently, I guess my ethnic heritage is not of importance and does not affect my day-to-day activities. However, if I had evident traits, perhaps I would not have the privilege of choice.
The fact that not all people are free to decide when to identify with their ethnicity became apparent in the class video, â€śMurder on a Sunday Morningâ€?. Brenton was not choosing to identify himself as an African-American when he was walking to Blockbuster. However, the police force immediately discriminated against him because his ethnicity was visible to them. It is embarrassing to say this directly, but honestly, that never would have happened to me or frankly probably to anyone that is white. I am sure some who are reading this are appalled by the fact that I am saying things that are so obvious, but growing up in a small town without minorities, the reality that this really happens is something that is still shocking for me.
In addition, I still cannot grasp the fact that he did not rebel against the police. He was so calm; his family came and prayed with him at the jail. I would have been livid. My parents would have demanded my release. Perhaps someone that is more culturally knowledgeable than me can help me understand. Why did he not argue? Does this happen so often it is almost expected that the color of your skin means you could be a murder suspect at any moment? Did he think it would be a losing battle if he rebelled? Is the police force that unjust that no one would realize what is happening? (Clearly in this case it was since Brenton was even abused.)
Overall, the concept of an optional ethnicity is fascinating to me since I cannot believe it is something I have never thought about before. Those without the option seem to be targeted and discriminated against; those that can hide behind a blanket of whiteness are invisible to the ethnic-targeted discrimination. I cannot even imagine the rage and anger I would feel as a Somali person after 9/11 that was stolen from my home because I was thought to look remotely like a terrorist. I cannot imagine recovering from a situation like the one that Brenton faced with outright discrimination and disrespect. I may be 99% German, but because to the naked eye I appear â€śwhite,â€? I guess I have the privilege of choosing when I want to be ethnic without the negative consequences.