Finding Identity-Thinking Ethnically

I have trouble dealing with ethnicity. It isn’t that I have trouble dealing with people who have an ethnicity. No, my problem, like that of very many of us, is that Anglo-Americans have generally grown up without any ethnicity. In fact, I would argue that the American Myth is that the only identity or ethnicity one needs is whatever one freely chooses as an American.

StanleyHauerwas , theologian at Duke and one of my favorite Southwestern University alumni has said and written famously that “the project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”

This is us, Anglo-America!

While this might be all right with you, I can’t take it anymore.  It is belittling, probably condescending of us to consider that everyone else has some ethnicity, some story, heritage, tradition of which they are naturally a part and with which they identify.  This is belittling and likely condescending because we have to put ourselves someplace outside of tradition, lineage and story to make such judgments, and we cannot do so; it is impossible.

As several people have pointed out, in support of Hauerwas’s definition of modernity above, to explain why one needs no story but the story one chooses, one has to tell a story.

Every one of us has a story, much of which we did not and can not choose. All of us have traditions, lineages, etc., that have played significant roles, whether active or passive, for good or bad, in developing our identities.

No one has any more ethnicity than anyone else.  Some are just able to admit it.

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