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Before this class, I never thought much of my ethnic background. After asking my grandparents and parents I gathered a little more information about our ethnic background. Although my maternal grandmother was born a mixture of English and Italian, she was raised in a household that was a blend of Italian and French. Her mother, who is my great-grandmother, who was a mixture of English and Italian, remarried after giving birth to her first son. Her new marriage was to a French man who had also brought on his two children. Growing up in this household influenced not only the foods she would cook, such as homemade ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti, or her famous homemade chicken noodle soup; but, also established a multigenerational line of caregiving. Being one of the oldest out of eight children, my grandmother had cared for her and her younger siblings all while caring for her children. She then transferred this type of nurturing down to her grandchildren. It’s common for me and my siblings to be taken care of by my grandmother for months at a time, to help my parents while they worked. I remember being dropped off at my grandparents Sunday evening around dinner and not being picked up until Friday after school. Italians are huge family people. Family is everything to us, we make sure to spend time with each other at every chance we can. Me and my family express our culture and ethnic background by making sure to cook a huge dinner on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. We started prepping the night before these major holidays because when we were growing up my grandmother would start rolling out her homemade noodles for ravioli, and chicken noodle soup. She would be baking all day making cannolis, cookies, and brownies. As we all grew up we looked forward to these holidays because of my grandmother’s cooking. Since she has passed we keep that tradition going because we know how happy it made my grandmother to cook for all of us on those days.

When I think what exactly does it mean to be American? Many things come to my mind. First, you do not need to be any particular national, or religion, speak a certain language, or come from a certain ethnic background. All one has to do is commit themselves to the political ideology centered on the ideas of liberty, equality, and republicanism. Thus, a typical patriotic American is meant to be open to anyone willing to become an American. One of the biggest defining factors in terms of being classified as a patriotic American is embracing the right of free speech. Freedom of speech is a big part of the American culture and citizens are welcome to speak on how they feel or what is on their mind without being barred an eye. This leads up to the next point- America is one of the very few countries in the world where it is nearly impossible to define nationality by one race, ancestry, or region. For example, some will say that anyone not of Native American descent is not considered American. However, we do not use race or one’s ancestry to determine what it means for us to be American. As a result, this is what it means to be American and their ethnic background. They value the values of being American while still keeping true to their ethnic background. And because of this, I do think it is still possible to be a patriotic American while still retaining your own religion, family, or cultural values and traditions. Being an American doesn’t mean you can’t be who you are and act, believe, or have an opinion based on your culture values, traditions, religion, or family.

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“American culture” is not homogeneous, which makes the idea of assimilation problematic. There is a broad spectrum of views and practices. But, at the very least would you be comfortable saying that people who come to America must embrace certain values? Not, it’s one hundred percent natural for humans to continue to connect with their roots, be they social/language, religious, economic, political, or geographical. To me, this question is like asking if children, once they have moved out and graduated high school and attending college, they should completely forget their parents and any influences resulting from their experiences. That’s bizarre! Just because you move from another country, doesn’t mean you can or should deny what has shaped you. But, to keep your roots within you and still respect the “ American” way of life. I believe that becoming Americanized is just learning how to fit into American society and playing your role in it. Coming from an Italian and French background, I would never trade my heritage for another. I love my country’s food, music, language, and customs. But me and my family have become Americanized because we have adapted them to the “ American” way of life.

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