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

IMG_1124BW

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.

Advertisements

The White Sheep of the Family

May 31, 2011 at 6:16 am , by 

Six months.

Jack may have been born as a Mexican baby, but he has gradually morphed into a little Norwegian boy.  The supreme irony is that when Jack was born, he almost looked too dark to be my son.  Six months later, it’s the opposite situation.

If you grew up in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, then by default one of your favorite sitcoms was Full House.  And whenever you think of Uncle Jesse, you think of his awesome video for “Forever” where he is wearing a black leather vest while in a bathtub surrounded by candles.  Also featured in the music video were Jesse and Rebecca’s twin sons, Nicky and Alex.

For me, I was always distracted by the fact that a dark featured Greek guy and a normal complected woman with reddish brown hair would have sons that had blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin.  I already had enough trouble believing that Danny Tanner would have three daughters with blondish hair when he himself had black hair (Bob Saget is Jewish in real life) with their mother who was also Greek; she was Jesse’s sister.  But light featured kids don’t come from dark featured parents, especially when there is a Mediterranean bloodline… I thought to myself for 20 years.

When Jack was born, and in the month or so to follow, he was a Mexican.  His skin was darker than mine, his hair was jet black, and his general features just simply looked Hispanic, or at least Italian. That’s because my maternal grandmother, Delores “Lola” Mendez is a dark-featured Mexican from Buffalo, New York and my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo, was a dark featured Italian from Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In fact, when you climb both sides of the family tree (both my wife’s and mine) you continually find dark haired people with dark eyes. But there is the fact that my wife’s paternal grandfather was a Norwegian orphan adopted by an American family, who married an indentured servant from Ireland.  In other words, despite the influx of “dark genes”, Jack evidently adopted the underdog “lighter” genes.

My wife and I have a blonde haired, blue eyed son with porcelain skin.  He’s sort of the “white sheep” in the family. And now that he’s officially six months old, the age at which a baby’s eye color remains permanent (based on what I’ve read), we now know it’s official.  Granted, I realize there’s a good chance that the older Jack gets, the darker his hair will get.  He may not always be blonde, but he will always have lighter skin than his parents who have a subtle olive complexion (skin with yellow and green undertones).  And people will always ask us, “Where’d that boy of yours get those pretty, deep blue eyes?”

Knowing me, I’ll probably reference Nicky and Alex from Full House every time I answer that question.

Pictured below:

1) The Four Generations of Shell in December 2010; my grandfather Shell is sitting in the middle, holding my son Jack, in between my dad and me.

2) The Four Generations of Metallo/Mendez in January 2011; my grandmother Metallo is sitting in the middle, in between my mom and me.

3) In May 2011, Jack is holding a sign that reads, “I am 6 months old today.”

*To get a better idea of just how different Jack used to look, look on the right side of the screen and click on the archives.  Start at November 2010, the month he was born.

Readers’ Expectations 7: Chicken with Teeth, Jorge Garcia’s Haircut, and the Adorability of Betty White

Scary mutant birds, instructions on how to wear pants, and a surprising Jewish conversion all brought me recent traffic here on Scenic Route Snapshots.  I attract a weird bunch, sometimes.

“chicken with teeth”- I heard a rumor several years ago that the folks at KFC invented “the boneless chicken” thanks to their ethics-out-the-window scientists who were trying to create a chicken with as much white meat as possible.  If that rumor is true, I would have to say that if anyone could create a chicken with teeth, it would be those infamous KFC scientists.

“who doesn’t like betty white?”- Her evil arch nemesis, Betty Boop.

“mystery hole”- Let’s keep it a mystery.  Please- I sure don’t want to know about it.

“ethnic routes to becoming American”- To become an American, ethnically, simply arrive from your native country onto our shores.  That will make you ethnically American.  Unless you’re Canadian.  Now, are we all clear?

"Out to get Betty White since 1930"

“wear khakis to club”– Two words: “Don’t’”.  Unless you are coming straight from your job at Best Buy or your Sunday School class.  Or the club you’re referring to is a high school chess club.

“wearing pants with a gut”– One word: “Do”.  Please wear pants, whatever it takes: drawstrings, rope, Velcro.  I’m trying to imagine how big and out of control this gut must be for a person to need advice on how to wear pants.  But worst case scenario, there is always the option of losing the gut, right?  After all, onset Diabetes and heart disease are surprisingly not worth the empty calories and lack of physical activity.  If only Jillian Michaels were omnipresent…

Voted "Best Men's Haircut" in 2010

“Jorge Garcia haircut”– He played one of my favorite characters on LOST; Hurley Reyes.  What a lovable guy.  But I have to admit I’m a little surprised to see a man searching for pictures of Jorge Garcia’s haircut to use as a model for his own upcoming haircut.  I would be less surprised if it was a women searching for this.  I could understand “Ashton Kutcher haircut” or even “Alec Baldwin” haircut, but “Jorge Garcia haircut”, not so much.

“daryl hall” converted jewish–  Oh yes, you just now heard the word?  He’s changing some of the titles of his hit songs he recorded with John Oates to make them more Jewish, like “Kosher Eater”, “Sarah Silverman Smile”, “You’ve Lost that Shalom Feeling”, and “Yiddish on My List”.

“Hating seagulls I like being racist”– Having an enjoyable prejudice against a scavenger bird that hangs out at the beach doesn’t make you a racist.  It makes you a… specist?…

Don't make her angry...

You wouldn't like her when she's angry!

Mario Eugene Shell (The Person I Almost Was): If I’m Both Hispanic and White, Which Box Do I Check in Those Surveys?

If only I looked more ethnic.


It’s hard to fathom now, but the entire time my mom knew she was pregnant with me (from October 1980 to April 1981) her “boy name” for me was Mario Eugene Shell.  But of course, my name is instead Nicholas Shane Shell.  Why?  I “didn’t look like a Mario”.  In other words, I was too white.

In essence, I am a mixed race- technically only half white.  One of the main ways I determine whether or not a person is “white” (other than their skin color) is by looking at their last name- if it ends in a vowel, they are probably not white.  My mom’s maiden name was Metallo (Italian) and her mother’s maiden name was Mendez (it doesn’t end in a vowel but it’s common knowledge that Mexicans are not “white”- especially not the ones in my family- they have darker skin).

My dad (a Southern boy of English, German, Cherokee Indian, and distant Greek traces) had married this exotic black haired woman from the North (Buffalo, NY).  It was assumed that their child would take after the more ethnic features, like mocha skin and black curly hair.  But on April 20, 1981 at 8:37 PM, both my parents were amazed to hold a seemingly All-American baby.

They looked at each other, then my mom said to my dad, “He’s not a Mario.  We need a new name.”  A few hours later, before midnight, still on the day I was born, I was named Nicholas (a Greek name that is a popular Italian male name).  My middle name is Shane, which is a form of Sean, which is a form of the Hebrew (Jewish) name, John.  (Shane was considered for my first name but “Shane Shell” really doesn’t work.)

And that’s how I got my name- a quickly formed “plan B”.  To imagine, if I looked more Mexican (like my sister, though she’s often mistaken for Hawaiian) or even a dark-skinned Italian, I would have been Mario Eugene.  (My dad’s middle name is Eugene.)  That’s means that growing up, everyone at school would have called me Super Mario and constantly made references to video game series.  But I don’t think it would have been all that different from my actual childhood, where everyone sang “Nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick, Nickelodeon!” to me.  And some people still do… Aunt Rosa!