Should I Check “White, Not Hispanic or Latino”?

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As I was updating my paperwork for the dentist recently, I had to decide whether or not I felt like technically lying.

It’s always something I hesitate on, more than I probably should.

My grandmother is full Mexican. I’m therefore only a quarter Mexican.

So I’m white; but 25% of my genes, and I suppose to some degree, my heritage and culture, is Mexican.

But if I could honestly describe myself to the Census Bureau, which apparently is the organization that most cares about my cultural and ethnic identity, it would simply be this:

Mostly white.

I’m not 100% white, so to proclaim, “white, not Hispanic or Latino” is inaccurate; because I’m absolutely part Hispanic.

The first time I remember having to answer that question was in 1st grade, for a standardized test. I remember how my mom, who is half Mexican and half Italian, told me that she always questioned that herself when she had to answer that question as well.

I think it muddies the waters even more than Italians typically are “more ethnic looking” than most Europeans. I have always thought the same thing about Jews (who are actually considered Middle Eastern) and Greeks (who, like Italians, are Mediterranean).

“White” is a funny term to me, when it references people.

I would love to take one of those ethnic DNA tests where they draw some of your blood and tell you exactly what percentage you are of each people group.

Mainly just because it would be fun to know… exactly. But really, none of that really matters.

What I learned in my HR training course is that ultimately, a person can claim whatever race they most identify with, even if it’s simply cultural.

If you are Chinese but adopted by white parents, you can identify as “white” if you choose to; or Chinese. It’s up to the individual.

As for me, I’m mostly white, based on the last names in my family tree: German (“Shell”), Italian (“Metallo”), Dutch (“Clowers”, derived from “Klaar”), Scottish (“Johnston” and “King”), and English (“Taylor” and “Wiseman”).

And of course I’m also Mexican (“Mendez”). That’s a little confusing as well because ethnically, Mexicans are a mixed race called Mestizos: ultimately, they are around half European (largely including Spanish) and around half Native (or indigenous) Mexican; just like how the United States originally was occupied by Native Americans before the Europeans came over.

The natives in modern Mexico and United States actually derived from Asia, like the Eskimos who settled in Russia and Alaska.

So technically, I’ve got distant traces of Asian blood.

If you really dumb it down, I’m just European and barely Asian.

But there’s not a category for that on the paperwork.

What Wile E. Coyote, Red Pandas, and U2 All Have in Common: They Still Haven’t Found What They’re Looking For

Ultimately, Bugs Bunny got on my nerves. He was obnoxious and dressed up like a woman too much. The reason I watched his show was to see Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. After a while, I realized that the coyote would never catch the roadrunner. But I didn’t care. Just like hiding Wilson’s face on Home Improvement, and Alf never getting to actually eat the Tanner family’s cat, and never really knowing if Pat was a man or woman, I still tuned in, if nothing else, to see all the creative ways the legacy continued.

With each viewing of the coyote and the roadrunner, I became aware of more and more logistical issues with the concept. For example, where did the coyote get the money to buy all those Acme products? Instead of ordering Acme products, why didn’t he just order some Omaha Steaks instead? Or a bus ticket out of Arizona? Surely as long as he’s been trying to capture the roadrunner (since 1949), as much energy as he’s spent and effort used, he could have ran to Phoenix by that point and just bought a Tex-Mex burrito.

But ultimately, the coyote’s instincts caused him to chase the roadrunner. It reminds me of a couple years ago when I visited the Nashville Zoo. That’s when I discovered the Red Panda (a distant Asian cousin of the raccoon), which has in turn become one of my favorite animals. I was drawn to this strange friend of Teddy Ruxpin because of its looks alone. Charming little fella.

When I saw him he was crouching, creeping along a log. The exhibit sign said that Red Pandas spend 12 to 15 hours a day looking for food. I starting laughing and couldn’t stop. Knowing that the zoo keepers surely fed him on a routine schedule, still he continued to look for food. Simply his animal instincts.

It’s not easy, being a citizen of the freest and most resourceful country in the world.  Having to fight off urges to obtain more material possessions because of the subconscious motto that excess is best.  For many, that’s what “the pursuit of happiness” means.  Despite all we have, despite our daily feeding, somehow like Wile E. Coyote, the Red Panda, and U2, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on red pandas, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog”:

dad from day one

Being Exotic Can Actually Mean Looking Generically Foreign

“Since many white people look alike, they are desperate to find ways to have a distinctive look.” -Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander


What is something that’s exotic?  To me it evidently always translated as “Hawaiian” or “Asian” or “tropical”.  But when I predictably spent two summers teaching English in Thailand in 2002 and 2003 as Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like, said I would (“This is when they venture to Thailand… Some do it to one-up the white people who only go to Europe,” and “White men love Asian women so much that they will go to extremes… like teaching English in Asia…”), I learned pretty quickly that over there, I was the magical, exotic one.

However, I was constantly confused with the few other “white people” in the province I worked in; more than several times being confused with a guy about three inches shorter than me who had blonde hair and blue eyes (and was Canadian).

So the irony is that while my “big nose that comes out of your face” (as some of my Thai students informed me of), “light colored hair” (which is actually dark brown), “white skin”, and “hairy body” (I guess I can’t argue about those last two) were different to the Thai people, I ultimately looked like every other white guy in the world.  Despite the exciting mysteriousness, being exotic also means looking generically foreign.

Written as a guide to help non-Caucasian people to understand "white culture".

And despite the various shades of eye colors and hair colors that Caucasians can have, we are ultimately the minority skin color of the world.  On a global scale, “white people” are the minority; and to the majorities, we evidently all blend together, looking alike.

We most easily identify the physical differences of the people of our own race, whatever it is, since that’s the group of people we are most familiar with.  In the end, “exotic” becomes a pretty relative word.

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

 

 

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld (Yes, Most of Them are Jewish; Even Matthew Perry)

 

After the recent overwhelming success and popularity of The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST, I decided I am among the thousands who are also intrigued by the vast different backgrounds of the actors of all-American TV shows.  Starting with curiosity of my own ethnic background, I soon stumbled into a new hobby/obsession: studying and memorizing the ethnic backgrounds of celebrities.  I am officially claiming to be an ethnic background specialist.  And I’m half serious, half joking when I say that.

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no soup for you

Of course for me, the most fascinating part is always discovering the Jewish actor(s) and writer(s).  Being that there are more than twice as many Asians than there are Jews in America, in theory, for every Jewish actor in a show there would be two Asian actors.  Or, being that Jews make up 1.7% of the American population, for every 100 actors in a show or movie, only two would be Jewish.  But that’s almost never the case.

So with that in mind, I felt the best way to officially start “The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast” series is by examining two highly popular Jewish sitcoms.  Whereas most sitcoms have at least one Jewish actor as part of the cast who plays a plain ole’ American mutt, both Friends and Seinfeld featured Jewish actors who occasionally incorporated their “Jewishness” into their  characters and the culture of the show itself.

To keep from being confusing, unless specifically stated, “English” simply means the actor is American but of English descent.  Same thing with “Scottish”, “Irish”, etc.  However, if the actor was actually born in England and is not an American, I will specifically state they were born in England, or whatever country they were raised in.

If the actor is Jewish, and I know what country their family moved to America from, I will say “descended from” or “of (ex: German) descent”.  In other words, each actor is American born, unless otherwise stated with the phrase “born in”.

Friends:

David Schwimmer (Jewish, descended from Germany) as “Ross Geller” (Jewish)

Courtney Cox-Arquette (English, though she is married to David Arquette, who is Jewish, she did not convert) as “Monica Geller (Jewish)

Jennifer Aniston (half Greek, quarter Italian, quarter Scottish) as “Rachel Green” (American)

Lisa Kudrow (Jewish, descended from Russia) as “Phoebe Buffay” (French)

Matthew Perry (half Canadian-English, half Jewish) as Chandler Bing (Scottish)

Matt LeBlanc (French, Italian, Dutch, Irish) as “Joey Tribbiani” (15/16 Italian, 1/16 Portuguese)

Elliot Gould (Jewish) as “Jack Geller” (Jewish)

Christina Pickles (English, born in England) as “Judy Geller” (Jewish)

James Michael Tyler (English) as “Gunther” (Dutch)

Hank Azaria (Jewish, descended from Greece) as “David the Scientist”, Phoebe’s on-again-off-again boyfriend (American)

Paul Rudd (Jewish, descended from England) as “Mike Hannigan” (Irish)

Created by David Crane (English) and Marta Kauffman (Jewish, descended from Germany)

Seinfeld:

Jerry Seinfeld (Jewish, of Polish, Ukrainian, and Syrian descent) as “Jerry Seinfeld” (Jewish)

Jason Alexander (Jewish, of German descent) as “George Costanza” (half Italian, half Jewish)

Michael Richards (half Italian, half English) as “Cosmo Kramer” (Jewish)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Jewish, of French descent) as “Elaine Benes” (Czech)

Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Jewish)

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did to find out if you might have Jewish DNA, here’s the link to MyHeritage.

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