My whiteness is a void of cultural identity. Even when I meet other Caucasian individuals, they are often first or second generation Polish or Serbian immigrants. I love this diversity and I am fascinated by the stories these people carry, but when contrasted against my own fallow immigration narrative, these characters are so much more alive and visceral, so much more interesting than my farm boy upbringing.
|Yup. He's from Iowa, alright.|
"Venezuela," the only lady on the team replied.
The penultimate player, a college student not more than 22 clarified,
"My parents are from Poland, but I was born here in Chicago."
All eyes rested on me. I answered hesitantly,
The group eyed me quizzically, so I explained,
"My family emigrated from Germany and Ireland in the middle of the 19th century, and settled in Iowa. That's where I come from." They all nodded and chuckled.
Little else was said before we retook the field. But it made me realize that, while I have always had a deep respect and fascination with my heritage, these teammates of mine were actually living that heritage, creating the narrative that one day will be shared with their future generations.
The stories I hear from my family are almost fable-like in their generalities. A family with three sons, arrive by boat, settle in St. Louis. The three boys move to Iowa and settle in disparate regions, bearing three distinct lines of Walljaspers that can still be traced today. Or on my mothers side of the family, a sixteen year old boy, fleeing conscription into nineteenth century German military dominance, makes his way to the Midwest and begins a small farm that is still in our family today. My family knows little about these characters, but as personal parables, they tell a story that helps shape my identity.
|Thanks, Crayola, for clearing that up.|
In the end, I have to come to terms with the fact that, despite my own cultural connections, there is more to me than merely my initial ethnic calling card. Just as we are taught to look past the racial stereotypes of every other culture, I hope that when I am lucky enough to be enveloped in the beautiful diversity that is Chicago, I am afforded the same curiosity and respect that I endeavor to put forth.