Optional ethnicity - Essay Example

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Are Ethnicities Optional? In her article Optional Identities: For Whites Only?, Mary Waters presents an argument about issues in the concept of ethnicity. Waters argues that ethnicity is not a biological function, since it is socially acquired…
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Download file to see previous pages On the other hand, it is true that the non-whites are not capable of choosing their ethnicities, even if they adopted the most popular ethnic symbols of the White ethnicities. On the other hand, it is also true that the Whites choose their ethnicities based on the amount of negative consequences. Waters claims that in the United States, the White Americans have the opportunity to choose their ethnicities, unlike the other minority groups. White Americans can either choose to be plain ‘White’ or choose an ethnicity, with regard to their ancestry. Waters also focuses on symbolic ethnicity, which she associates with later-generations of most White Americans. In this type of ethnicity, the individuals involved do not experience any social cost. This is because of the symbolic identifications in the ethnic group, which attracts later-generations to identify with. For instance, some whites might identify with the Irish Americans only during the special occasions such as vacations, or family holidays (Waters 3). Waters also notes that the whites are not influenced by ethnicity, compared to the minority groups in the US (4). In addition, they are at liberty to either choose their ethnicity, from their genealogies or not choose any, unlike the minority groups, who have to identify themselves with their identity. Symbolic identity mainly occurs among the whites, when they identify themselves with different ethnicities by adopting the popular ethnic symbols of those ethnicities. For instance, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in order to be associated with the Irish ethnicity, thus, signaling their Irish ethnicity. However, a non-white celebrating St. Patrick’s Day will not be regarded Irish, since these are not capable of optional ethnicities. Waters introduces another element of ethnicity, which is the ‘non-optional’ ethnicity. This is the opposite of optional ethnicity, and mainly affects the minority. Unlike optional ethnicity, which is chosen with a free will, non-optional ethnicity is imposed on individuals. Oppositional ethnicity also affects the minority groups in society. In this type of ethnicity, members of the minority groups will seek companionship among themselves, and sometimes distance themselves from the mainstream population. In this case, the minority group will want to maintain their identity, which could be influenced by their history, or their uniqueness, with regard to other factors. The remaining members mostly judge the people who abandon this kind of ethnicity in a negative way. Waters attributes this ethnicity to the blacks and the Latinos. She believes that, “the oppositional component of a black identity also explains how black people can question whether other black are acting black enough” (Waters 7). In this case, the blacks or any ethnic minority groups are expected to act according to the values of their group, which is different from those of the mainstream population, and any deviance by one member is questionable. In the article Notes of a Native Speaker, Erick Liu talks about his experiences that relate to his ethnicity, immigration, and race, during his childhood and teenage years. Although Liu was Chinese, after immigration, he became a Chinese-American. However, he was called ‘banana’ by other Asians, for emulating the values of White Americans. Liu experienced vast challenges adapting to life in America, especially with regard to culture. Even though he was a citizen of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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