The Department of Psychology
WHAT IS ETHNICITY ANYHOW?
Being a Psychology student, I am asked to respond to numerous research questionnaires or surveys. I usually comply because I know the time will come when I too will ask other Psychology students to do the same. The standard questions are age, gender, ethnicity, race, and nationality. The questions of age, gender, and even nationality are easy to answer, but what about race and ethnicity? I want to write "human" in the race category. What is a Caucasian or Caucasoid? I just do not know. I don't feel like I am one of those.
I have pretty good coloring, so I don't feel like answering White -- Maybe tan, or flesh colored. But is the color of my skin a race? It seems like an absurd question. A Caucasoid sounds like a geometric object or something. Surely it cannot be something I can identify with. Now to the question of ethnicity: What is that anyhow? My great-grandparents left Russia during the Pogroms (like in Fiddler on the Roof) due to the Jewish persecution in Tsarist Russia. I have never fled a country for fear of my life nor do I know of life in Russia. To say that my ethnicity is Russian feels wrong. My heritage is Russian. That I can agree with and feel proud of, but again, what is my ethnicity?
My parents were born in Chicago, Illinois. Do I say that I am a Chicagoan? I think not! I was born in Los Angeles, California. So maybe I can say I am an Angelino. That feels a little more comfortable. Now, as I sit here and reflect about Los Angeles, I can say that I do not even know where East L.A. is, nor do I know how to get to the Music Center, or Dodger Stadium. What kind of Los Angelino is that?
I get totally lost downtown, and can not find the clothing or jewelry mart, or even my way back to the freeway to return home. ...So, maybe I do not identify with Los Angeles after all. So what do I identify with? Well, I have lived about five miles from the beach my whole life. I love relaxing in the sun, watching it reflect on the water. I love listening to the surf pound against the shore while reading a good book. And I also love to watch the sunset as it fades into the ocean. Now that is something I can identify with. So is there a little box that I can write Southern California Beach Girl?
I do not know the answer to this dilemma, although I feel it is a very important issue. I think maybe we should just delete the question of ethnicity. If we do not have to answer it, then maybe there will be no problem. Maybe our generation can come up with a new answer for our most fascinating heterogeneous nation.
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