The United States is such a culturally diverse country. Many of the population have mixed backgrounds. My dad is Italian and my mom is Black. I cannot possibly count or estimate the amount of times people have asked me if I speak Italian. I’ve had people look at me with a glare that is a mixture between horror and disgust when I say no. Not only that, people have natural assumptions about who I am because of being Italian that are completely false. Is it that people in the US have lost touch with our cultures, are we expected to stay true to our roots, or do we let go of our cultures and adapt to Americanized lifestyles?
This is something that will probably eventually have a part 2, but this is what I have on my mind for now...
My dad is not from Italy. My grandparents aren’t even from Italy. Their parents were but I never met any of them. For some reason, there is this idea that if you are Italian though, that naturally you speak the language, had an Italian flag tattooed on your bicep, crucifix around your neck, have a first communion party, and eat pasta with every meal and at snack time. It’s like people find themselves disappointed in me as well as my family with not keeping me connected with my roots because I don’t carry the same traditions as my people! But I don’t see too many other nationalities doing the same here in the U.S.!!! I have never heard someone be asked if they speak Portuguese or French or Dutch or Greek just because of where their ancestors come from so what makes it so different with Italians? I think that all that goes on on the East Coast with the guidos and guidettes of Jersey Shore and all the other shows, people assume it’s applicable across the country! People ask me things like “do you say gravy or sauce?” “where is your family from in Italy?” “are you Sicilian” “do you know any mob members?” “is your family apart of the mafia?” It gets relatively funny. But here is the thing: most people lose touch with their culture living in America. I would naively want to say its unintentional, but what did all of those immigrants entering in this country at Ellis Island think they were going to do? Bring Italy to America and seize the land? No! People come here for individualism, self identity, freedom, and new beginnings. I think having connections to my roots is very important, but I do not make my own pasta from scratch and I have no intention to, ever. But I do love pasta, and bread with olive oil :) If I were Latina, I’d understand speaking Spanish fluently because there are so many people who speak Spanish especially in California. But if I learned Italian, who am I going to speak with? Myself? I would rather master the English language, and live the life of an American.
No one ever asks me do I hold fast to any of the traditions from my African roots. Maybe people figure that is a sensitive subject since I have not the slightest idea of what part in Africa from which my family came. It pretty crazy, something about being Italian makes people think I’m from the Old Country!
A culture isn’t necessarily based on race of country of origin. A culture can be based on age, or cities, or religion or any other aspect that can identify you with a group of people. So don’t think that just because a person doesn’t identify with the “culture” you expect, doesn’t mean they aren’t apart of any culture! I am apart of the mixed, middle child, left handed, ex-cheerleader, creative minded, sandwich loving, awesome hair, Jesus loving culture, and I am proud of it!
P.S. I don't get offended or angered by this, so if you asked me this in the past, no worries! :)