There have been a number of recent blog posts and discussions around the Internet on the subject of American identity, the national question. What is an American? Who is a ‘real American’? Into any such discussion, somebody will inevitably make the statement that no one born in the United States is fully of any one ethnicity. There is “no such thing” as an English-American especially, because the original colonial stock is by now hopelessly blended with every other possible ethnicity, especially given the lack of ethnocentrism exhibited by many ‘WASPs’.
Is this true? Are there no Americans who are predominantly or mostly of English descent now? I don’t know that there is any definitive data on that. Barring universal DNA testing (which I would not favor), without scrupulous genealogical data being maintained by all Americans, we have mostly subjective claims behind most Americans’ ethnic identification. Many people have only bits and pieces of genealogical data, or even less reliable sources of information like family lore based on oral history.
My family tree, on both sides, goes back to colonial times in all our lines, and incredible though some people may find it, they were predominantly of English origin — except for some Huguenots, and then there were some Germans who were part of the Germanna Colony which was established in the South in the 1700s.
This, I think, is typical of many original stock, colonial origin Southrons. And it was more likely in the South to stay within one’s own ethnic kin, considering that the South received very few immigrants for much of its history. It’s true that certain locales took in immigrants, as New Orleans had many Sicilians. Overall, though, the percentages of foreign-born in the Southern states remained in the single digits throughout the 20th century. According to Henry Pratt Fairchild in his book Immigration, a World Movement and its American Significance, the Southern states had an average percentage of foreign-born of about 5 percent, the lowest in the entire nation in the early 20 century.
Those who have always lived in certain of the states outside the South may find it hard to imagine an area of America which did not experience great waves of immigration in the past, or an area in which there are not a congeries of different ethnicities, as in parts of the Midwest and the Northeast. I suspect that many of those who say there is ”no such thing” as an American of majority English ancestry are people from the more ‘diverse’ regions.
In recent years there is the phenomenon, in the South, of people identifying exclusively as ‘Scots-Irish’ or the generic ‘Celtic’, to the exclusion of any possible English ancestry they may have. This confuses things more, as many of these partisans have spread the meme that ‘the South is Celtic.’ The ‘Celtic South’ meme is everywhere.The blogger “n/a” from the race/history/evolution blog says:
“I don’t see a problem with someone identifying with his patrilineal national origin for census purposes while remaining aware of his overall ancestry. What I find irritating is the eagerness of some with American ancestry to identify as “Scotch-Irish” after reading a review of Albion’s Seed, or “Celtic” in the name of Celtic Southronism, or “German” because they had a German great-grandfather, and then declare themselves at war with or at least safely distinct from evil/culpable “WASPs” / “Anglo-Saxons” (which appellations in reality describe the core of the breeding population from which the newly self-identified Borderer/Celt/German sprung)”
I second what “n/a” says.
The aforementioned blog is a great source of information and data about American ethnic origins, and the blog is a rarity in that it takes a somewhat more Anglo-friendly stance than most blogs out there.
No doubt there are people with some Ulster lineage (known as ‘Scots-Irish’ though their progenitors may have been ‘border’ folk in the Northern English counties, Anglo-Saxon by blood) but we might just as easily say that ‘there is no such thing as a 100 percent Celtic Southron.’ Most people don’t know their genealogical data with certainty. But the Celtic identity is in vogue now.
And it is our English forebears who are being slighted here, with many of their present-day descendants preferring not to identify as English-descended Americans.
This results in a strange discourse in our post-American America, wherein ”WASPs” are spoken of as if they are extinct, and no longer present to speak for themselves, yet paradoxically there are those who believe in a cabal of ‘WASP elites’ who run everything and cause every ill. So the WASP lives on in legend but the flesh-and-blood WASP Americans, in every walk of life, apparently don’t exist. There’s no such thing…