Young children are often not recognized enough to be curious and observant, and many parents fear discussing sophisticated topics such as race and culture with them.
I recently read on a non-profit website called Futurity that at age 5, children begin to “associate racial characteristics with traits, stereotypes, and social status, and begin to internalize messages about race that they have inferred from the adults and people around them”.
I would also add that ethnicity is another characteristic that children recognize very early on.
I remember being in first grade and filling out a paper for the teacher with my full name on it. Regarding my middle name, I was embarrassed by “Tania”. In fact, I didn’t like being Greek. I wanted to be Franco-American like the majority of my comrades. I wanted a family name like Côté, Dubé, Lavoie, etc. I knew that my Mediterranean features, my religion and my traditions were different, and that made me feel uncomfortable.
My late grandmother’s name was “Sultana”. It was supposed to be my middle name, but my parents thought Tania sounded better. I asked them what Sultana meant in English, and they told me the closest translation was “Susan”.
And Susan was the name I chose to write for my middle name in school. Like most kids, I wanted to fit in.
Today in New Hampshire, the largest ancestry groups include French and French Canadians (23.3%), Irish (20.5%), English (16.1%), Italian (10.7%), Germans (8.3%) and Americans (5.2%), according to data from the World Population Review. The large French-Canadian and Irish populations are mostly descendants of factory workers of old, many of whom still live in Nashua and Manchester.
Nashua as well as the entire state is also predominantly white. The racial makeup of my town of 90,000 people breaks down as follows:
Two or more runs: 5.22%
Black or African American: 3.53%
Other race: 1.75%
Native American: 0.12%
Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.01%
In the meantime, I’ve learned that ancestry is something that can be more complicated than it looks.
I’ve come to admire and love my Greek roots, but these days I don’t know how Greek I really am. It all started in 2018 when my sister-in-law Nina gave me an AncestryDNA kit. She was sure my family had Native American heritage because of my strong features, including high cheekbones. I laughed, of course. It would be remarkable if I had, but my family roots were Greek/Macedonian. I thought I was 100% Greek.
I spat into the little tube and sent it to AncestryDNA. All it would take is 1/4 teaspoon of saliva to determine my cultural makeup.
Surprise. The data revealed that I was 76% Greek, Albanian and Turkish.
I recently received new 2022 stats from AncestryDNA. I am now “only” 67% Greek and Albanian with 27% Balkan ethnicity, 4% Eastern European and Russian and 2% Baltic.
To determine its ethnic rating, the company compares your DNA to a global reference panel to see which populations your DNA most closely resembles.
How could a person’s ethnicity change often?
“DNA ethnicity estimates are updated from time to time based on advances in DNA science and an increasing number of samples in our reference panel. With each update, we continue to add new regions, making your results even more accurate,” says AncestryDNA.
And There you go. As unique as we all are as individuals, we’re probably much more similar than we think.