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Re: The Afro German Experience

Hi, Dan. Thanks for your response. Yours is an interesting story, indeed. My initial query read:

"I believe that I need a better understanding of what is meant by the terms 'ethnicity', 'culture', 'heritage', 'race', and any other descriptive term used to denote an individual's origins. I have a hard time discerning which term is appropriate in the context in which it is being used. Perhaps there are some ideas and guidelines out there somewhere, but I can't lay my hands on any."

It appears that the categories used to classify citizens [e.g., African-American, Haitian-American, Polish-American, Irish-American, Italian American, etc.] are used to identify that person's ethnic/racial cultural, linguistic, religious, behavioural or biological traits. It seems to be society's method of identifying its citizens.

It seems, however, that the classification of a person by race alone is based mainly upon biological traits. I have noted that race seems to be a characteristic of ethnic identification.

Culture, in my opinion, denotes the habits of a group of people. Grits, for example, was an example of the eating habits of Southern culture [until ex-President Jimmy Carter made eating grits part of the broader American culture]. Heritage is our bloodline, and denotes which group[s] of people we descended from.

Interestingly, I have found, in the interim between posting my initial message and today, that the terms can be used synonymously since they all contain elements of certain human charactieristics [skin color, eating habits, manner of dress, moral codes, religious beliefs, etc.] as part of their definitions.

These identifications are important to me in my genealogy research because they help me to identify the documentary paths laid out for my ancestors. For example, the births and marriages of 'Negroes' and 'Blacks' was not always recorded in official government documents. The official recording of these events, in many cases, appears to have been only in family records.

You and I, as American citizens, live in a society where we are categorized in certain ways. These categorizations, in my humble opinion, have no impact on the measurement of any individual as a worthy or unworthy person. Individual morals determine that.

You are an American, no doubt. If you choose to add a qualifyier to that categorization, you may. Qualifiers are a normal part of who we are: Vietnam Vet [which my ex-husband also is], wife, mother, father, black, white, etc. are the qualifiers used freely.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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