Thursday, October 18, 2012

Identity

A huge part of my job at work is outreach, and lately we have been doing some of this at events - inviting groups that we haven't previously partnered with to our events, going to theirs, etc. It sounds simple but it seems to be making a big impact.

We went to an event this morning and had an entire table to fill, and I invited all sorts of people. One of them is a therapist at a local hospital system who also has a private practice. She and I have more in common, I learn, as I get to know her better, than I'd think at first glance - among other things, identity issues.

The breakfast was a fundraiser/get-together for a culturally-specific health care center. My colleague, who is African American but was adopted by white parents, then married a man from Ghana.

She e-mailed me afterward the event today and said, "I know some of those people, but they never invite me to anything like this. I felt like I was out of place, like I didn't belong, like somehow I was a fake."

I told her she fit in perfectly and that I was proud to know her - this is a woman who has conquered all kinds of obstacles, personally and professionally, to devote her career to helping other people. We ended up having a very interesting e-mail conversation about identity.

My family, shall we say, is the product of people hopping the fence everywhere. We are derived from Apaches, Swiss Jews, Irish Protestants, German Lutherans, and the like. (What do they all have in common? Just about all of us are nuts...but that's another story.) We have one side that swears up and down that they're 100% WASP, when in fact I have looked at the family tree going back to about the year 1500 and that is blatantly untrue; we have another side that's as admittedly mixed as the day is long.

Who am I and where do I fit in? I have Native American genes but people mistake me for being white - but I'm not white enough for some relatives who don't like to talk about those lines. I have enough Jewish roots to disturb the WASP relatives, but I'm not Jewish enough for some of the more religious people I know.

I've thought about this for years tried to be more this and more that. But at some point I finally arrived at the conclusion that I'm just me. I have my own ideas about faith, roots, and family. It's all significant in its own way. I have come to the realization that blood is not thicker than water, and that Mr. RK, my close friends and stepbrother are more family than some of the people I allegedly share DNA with. (My dad thinks I have more DNA in common with a banana than one side of the family anyhow.)

In sum, a friend asked a few months back, "Well, how do you identify?"

And I replied, "I'm just me."

PS Just so you don't think I've gone all batshit serious on you, I've included a couple of lolcats - and this gem.

18 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm a Heinz 57 too and proud of it!

Lynn said...

Yeah - I never get too caught up in the WASPish thing - although my family is pretty WASPy, on both sides. I like that you are a wonderful mixture of all sorts of nationalities.

Granny Annie said...

DNA puts it all out on the table. According to my maternal DNA I am 80% European, 16% Native American and 4% Sub-Saharan African which equals 100% ME:)

The Elephant's Child said...

A mongrel mixture here. And I hear you about the people that are your relations being quite different to the people you relate to. I would be happy if some of my blood family decided to go with the flow and finally cut me off. And yes, I know, I am a wimp and could cut them off. And am tempted.
Judaism, Christianity, German, English and far too many secrets on all sides.

DWei said...

I'm fairly certain I'm completely Chinese though due to the glare of a computer screen and no sunlight people generally think I'm half white

Riot Kitty said...

D: Great expression for it! I will have to use that.
L: We have some also (so they say), but I wonder.
GA: I have always wanted to do one of those tests! I love "100% me" - that is perfect.
TEC: Far too many secrets is the same here. Just silly, if you ask me.
DW: So if the glare of the computer was purple, would you be half purple people eater? Just wondering ;)

Shionge said...

My Father came from China...my Mom Malaysia and happily married in Singapore and now I'm a Singaporean.

Besides being a multi-racial society.....we are Singaporean and yes, just being me is cool :D

Betty Manousos said...

i have to say your reply to your friend was priceless and i absolutely love your native american and jewish roots as well!

thank you for a wonderful post! and the kitties!

happy weekend~

Kitty Moore said...

I had identity issues too and I came to the same conclusion!

LL Cool Joe said...

Well as someone who is adopted I have no family tree. I have no idea where I came from, or if I have brothers or sisters etc. And quite honestly I've never cared. I am what I am.

Riot Kitty said...

S: I love it!
Betty: Thank you!
KM: My nickname is Kitty, believe it or not. Thanks for stopping by!
Joey: What a great answer!

G. B. Miller said...

Define normal.

To quote a movie from long ago, we are the sum of all our parts: past, present and future.

Fortunately, some of the parts have blessedly passed me by, 'cause if they didn't, we wouldn't be here in the blog world today.

Riot Kitty said...

Good point! I do find the older I get, the happier I am and the fewer fucks I give about things that really don't matter.

Scarlet said...

Oh I get you and this post all too well and it's cool that you and your coworker were able to e-mail back and forth on the subject.

As you know growing up Cuban in upstate NY was interesting (I was considered the Spanish girl) and then when I moved to Miami (or as I like to call it "North Cuba") the Cubans saw me as a gringa. Go figure. I'm so in the middle of nowhere I'm just me, like you, like all of us...alike but different. That's my expression..."we are all more alike than different..." and I leave it at that.

Damn, that dino gem is hilarious! LOL

Riot Kitty said...

S: I imagine that must have been a very difficult transition. So many communities like to marginalize people, it sucks, and I suppose all we can do is say, "Hooray for me! Fuck it!" Or something like that ;)

A Beer for the Shower said...

I'm only one ethnicity, but no one ever understands it. I'm Spanish.

"You're Mexican? You're pretty white for a Mexican."

No, I'm Spanish. A Spaniard. You know, Europe. Some of them are pretty white, and they speak Spanish.

"Oh, right... so... what part of Mexico?"

Riot Kitty said...

ABFTS: Seriously? They never looked at a map, perhaps?

Darth Weasel said...

funny thought; as an (alleged) historian, I of all people should be highly concerned about things like this.


And find very few things in life more boring than family history.

"And then person a you never met and their cousin went fishing!"

Great hilarity ensues. Wow. And just when I thought See Spot Run was a boring story...