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  1. #1
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    Default The American vs non American way of defining identity

    I am not quite sure where to put this thread but here goes...

    Basically yesterday post discussion about European Americans identifying more with their ethnic ancestry than race in the "Rape Culture Thread" I promised I'd start a thread on this...I have to say that as an outsider, this isn't my experience and it has greatly contrasted to how I, and other non Americans view my identity. I identify as "white" only when contrasting myself with people who aren't of European ancestry, and only use the term because there simply isn't a better word in common use. The rest of the time, I just think of myself as (West) Germanic (a ethnocultural group) if I choose to identify in such a way at all, it may surprise everyone but I don't actually think about this most of the time. However, race seems to be a very big thing in America as a way of defining identity. The conclusion that me and my friends drew from this is that Americans are much more divorced from their roots than people in other colonial countries due to mixed ancestry and the lack of a founding culture directly based on a European nation. For example - New Zealand, Australia and most of Canada have an English founding culture, Quebec has a French one, due to these countries having strong influence until very recently and being comparatively homogenous. America broke away - and while its base "American" political values come straight out of the European Enlightenment - the actual culture, and ethnic balance of the country, developed quite independently thereafter.

    I have seen enough of the world to recognise that a lot of "whaat folk" don't look at all like me and have very different cultural practices, so I find it strange that Americans consider everyone to be the same when they are quite clearly not. Is it just a lack of awareness or more than that, due to the melting pot effect changing their perception?

    Sorry for the rambling by that way (I'm a bit tired this morning) but I guess what I'm trying to say is, Americans what do you think of this, how do you define your identity and does the above click with you or not? Also non Americans for contrast.

    Thanks...

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    American is real big. Each state has a unique culture. Though the south, the bible belt, is all similar.

    California has it's own thing going on, so does Colorado, to name a couple, Utah, New Mexico.

    Hawaii.

    Our ancestors are scattered and mixed. A lot of us, especially in the south, struggle to come up our identities because the traditional, conservative and religious traditions of our parents and beyond, no longer serve us (it serves some). This often causes big rifts in families.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kullervo View Post
    However, race seems to be a very big thing in America as a way of defining identity. The conclusion that me and my friends drew from this is that Americans are much more divorced from their roots than people in other colonial countries due to mixed ancestry and the lack of a founding culture directly based on a European nation.
    A non-American passing by
    When someone bases his judgement on nationality, does that mean he has a strong sense of his own?
    Anyway, as humans, I think we ought to rely on labels when we fail to comprehend stuffs, and America really is a big country with a diverse population.

    Since we're in the subject of culture, are you familiar with the high-context vs. low-context culture study? That might interest you~
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    Senior Member Alea_iacta_est's Avatar
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    The only place where a true culture reigns supreme is primarily in the South, due probably to the mutual political alliance forged between the majority of the Southern States to stand contrast against the Northern States's alliance against slavery and States' Rights in the 19th century. Whereas the Northern States generally didn't put much emphasis on a "unified" culture, the Southern States dogmatically enforced their culture to ensure that the social/ethnic hierarchy was maintained with the passage of time.

    Of course, the North was not the cultural melting pot everyone made it out to be. The United States was the country of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and different ethnic and religious entities were sometimes persecuted, primarily with Catholics, Blacks, Asians, Eastern + Southern Europeans (called the New Immigrants, as they entered the nation in the late 1800s and stood contrast to the Old Immigrants who were primarily Anglo-Saxon Western immigrants who had already settled down and been assimilated). In cities, there were tenements and specific urban divisions designed for the New Immigrants in the East (as seen with slums harboring a high majority of Eastern Europeans), and even more squalid conditions for Asian immigrants in the West (hailing the inventions of Chinese ethnic districts in cities known as "Chinatowns" that are still around today). The American identity, then was the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and through the efforts of American Nativism (which focused around the W.A.S.Ps) from ethnic nationalist parties like the Know-Nothing Party (a.k.a The American Party), there were several immigration acts passed such as the Quota Acts of the 1920s and the Chinese Exclusion Act (banning all Chinese immigrants). So, there was actually an American Identity through which ethnic nationalism spread, even though the modern country itself doesn't seem that way due to vast social improvements.

    The Nativism, however, died out, and left behind the loose culture we have today.

    Personally, I still identify by my European Ancestral roots from the Western and Eastern Slavs and the East Germanic peoples (and Scotch-Irish) when asked for my ancestry, but not in a way that I section myself off from other American European peoples. It's more of a, "where does your family hail from" kind of thing rather than a sense of personal identity and political definition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kullervo View Post
    I have seen enough of the world to recognise that a lot of "whaat folk" don't look at all like me and have very different cultural practices, so I find it strange that Americans consider everyone to be the same when they are quite clearly not. Is it just a lack of awareness or more than that, due to the melting pot effect changing their perception?
    We shouldn't assume other people who are white are likeminded. I agree. People form their identities in relation to those around them, and the people around them are doing the same thing. So, they have generic identities instead of self identities. Not knowing themselves, what they're about, or having core beliefs makes it difficult to distinguish between themselves and others. Never having considered who they are, they don't consider other people either, assuming simplicity when they shouldn't. The other person's motives could be completely alien, and in opposition, to their own. Per Abraham Maslow, "The great cause of much psychological illness is the fear of knowing of oneself-of one's emotions, impulses, memories, capacities, potentialities, of one's destiny."

    I think people want to belong to a tribe, and in America, there's lots of tribes all dispersed among each other. So maybe it's confusing, sort of like a multiple choice test and you're using the process of elimination, except there's more answers to choose from.

    Don't know if I addressed your question much, but some of it is sort of Myers-Briggs-y.

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    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    Our country has multiple regional cultures. In addition to the Bible Belt, California, Utah, New Mexico, and Hawaii, there are also the distinct cultures of New England and Appalachia, that I know of -- I hope others will identify some more. I don't think of us as all the same.

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    Apparently the differences between places as disparate as Tennessee and Louisiana escape the participants of this thread. Far be it from me to dissuade you from your small minded concepts of "Southern".

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyyukon View Post
    American is real big. Each state has a unique culture. Though the south, the bible belt, is all similar.
    That's started changing in recent decades. The south is not this big, unified culture it once was and is still perceived as being--I'm not sure it was ever all that unified and homogenous. For example, Virginia has counties and communities which more resemble Vermont or the northwest in terms of culture and values. The Old South as we knew it, for all intents and purposes, is dead (if it ever existed to begin with).
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    Apparently the differences between places as disparate as Tennessee and Louisiana escape the participants of this thread. Far be it from me to dissuade you from your small minded concepts of "Southern".
    Wow, I'm in agreement with you for once.
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    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alea_iacta_est View Post
    The only place where a true culture reigns supreme is primarily in the South
    Have you ever heard of Texas or the Pacific Northwest?
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