Why are Americans obsessed with the ethnicity of their ancestors?

My Mexican coworker took a DNA test that shows him to be 30% Native American (Aztec), 40% Spanish, 14% French, 6% German, 5% African and small percents of other misc ancestries. But he turns around and says that he's 100% Mexican. And the thing is that not all Mexicans look the same, some are white, others are mixed looking and many are downright American Indian looking.  I have NEVER heard a Mexican, Colombian, Jamaican, etc. say they're half this, half that.

For the first time on the census I put my ethnicity as "American". But it's only in the South that the majority of Americans put their ethnicity as "American" on the census. In most other states it's usually about 10-20%. Even in Canada, a much larger percentage of the population claims Canadian ancestry even though some of their ancestors may have come from somewhere else.   

The funny thing is that most immigrants in the US such as Latinos and Asians do refer to being "American" as an ethnicity. My Mexican neighbor told me there was someone on my porch ringing my bell. When I asked them to describe the guy, they said he was American. The American Chinese people who own the restaurant by my house have also referred to your typical "non ethnic" Americans as "American" and looking "American".

5 Answers

  • ?
    Lv 5
    6 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    Your Mexican friend's feeling that he is 100% Mexican is pretty much the same as the feeling of those people who indicate on the USA Census that they are American.  You can think of it as an indication of what culture those individuals feel has most contributed and determined who the are and how they imagine themselves.  Indeed, if it were OBJECTIVELY determined by some machine, (instead of being subjectively and individually determined by "feelings"), it's likely that most people in North America would be "American", "Mexican", or "Canadian".

    But we each have feelings.  And it happens that, among residents of the USA, there are a few different influences at work that cause people to "feel" connections to places they've never been and cultures they've never experienced - but which they intellectually KNOW have had some role in their existence.

    One of these is a natural desire to distinguish oneself from a zillion other similar individuals.  This is a particularly potent influence among European-Americans.  They are the majority and there are a lot of them, so it's natural for them to have an interest in anything that distinguishes them from the crowd, be it a hobby or some ancient heritage.  Hence, it's pretty common to hear a white American explain that they're from Lithuania, when they couldn't necessarily even find Lithuania on a map.

    Another influence is the fact that the USA is a multi-cultural mish-mash of peoples and practices and traditions.  People live next-door to each other for years without knowing what holidays they each celebrate, what dances they share with family, what foods they serve, or - most importantly - what values they keep and what their expectations are from their neighbors.  The tendency is to conduct walled-off lives...sort of you-go-your-way-and-I'll-go-mine.  So this all tends to turn individuals' feelings away from a communal identity and toward an ancestral one.

    Another influence is the huge issue the USA has with "race" and "racism".  When various groups within the country hold mental models of their society that are divided into a few compartments, and it's normal for everyone to mentally plunk everyone they see into this compartment or that one, based on their exterior appearance - then it's almost inevitable that individuals will tend to form an appearance-based identity instead of a communal one.  And appearance-based identities tend to be ancestral and geographic in nature.

    So the USA has a few influences at work that aren't so powerful in Mexico, Colombia, or Jamaica.  (Oh, they might be present in ALL those places - but they aren't anywhere near as potent as in the USA.) 

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Get cancer you son of a whore 

  • Zirp
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    Mostly because they don't know what words mean, and because there are too many americans.

    YOUR ethnicity is the language and culture YOU were raised in. You can have more than one, but "percentages" are meaningless

  • ?
    Lv 6
    6 months ago

    The U.S is very ethnically diverse compared to Mexico.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • Anonymous
    6 months ago

    This question is just silly,

    What no Italian in that mix? Was he afraid someone may realize who the Latins are.

    To be clear, Iberia Hispania and Valle Latina are different places in Europe. The confederate south didn't grab it's Latin motto from mixed people or non-europeans.

    Past the Latino and Hispanic non-sense. Mexicans claim they're Spanish and even German all the time. We have one who's posts on this board who says he's German .... And it may be true, the Germans were in Mexico.

    btw, Mexico is also part of the Americas.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.