Last night my family and I hosted a dinner for friends for World Refugee Day #EatforSyria
I would show you pictures but we were having too much fun and eating tasty food to stop and pose.
You will just have to picture the stuffed grape leaves, the Kibbe dripping with juices, falafel and hummus and pita and turnips so bright pink they were unnatural.
People are often surprised that I, very white looking European from Appalachia, identify with Syrian Americans. I often feel like a fraud. I don’t know the language, I don’t practice the religion of my ancestors, I don’t know the art and literature of my people.
Why do I want to go back in time and reclaim a heritage I know nothing about?
Isn’t only part of my family Syrian? What about my Welsh, English, German, etc. etc. roots? It is true, I don’t know anything about any of these other cultures and that has to change.
In order to end racism, we must all get back to our roots.
This article describes huge reason why it has become important to me to reclaim my cultural identity.
Thus, it is important that White people who strive to be anti-racist hold a tension: we must get in touch with our cultural heritage to understand our stake in ending White Supremacy through a connection to what we lost, but we also have to understand and remain accountable to the privileges that Whiteness affords us every day of our lives.
In some ways, this is a complex tension to hold.
Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/04/holding-the-tension/ on June 21, 2018.
That is a tough journey. It means allowing space for how losing our cultural identity contributed to racism in this country. Not as blame, not as a grab for power, but as an understanding of what it means when we ask people of other nations and cultures and religious traditions to assimilate.
There are huge benefits for knowing who you are and where you come from.
- Self-esteem boost
- Awareness and empathy for others
- A path for peace and reconciliation
And it starts with recognizing our nationality is American, perhaps, but our ethnicity is so much more diverse than that.
So where does a person start? How do I reclaim and understand an identity I know very little about?
For me, it starts with food.
Food is the easiest way to introduce yourself to culture. There is a reason that meal times are so important. Food is so much more than sustenance or fuel. It is about relationship. It is about sharing. And if you are lucky enough to come from a family that has passed recipes down from generation to generation, it is a link to the past.
I do not have any grandparents or aunts and uncles to share these stories and recipes with me. So I seek that on my own and imagine what it was like from my great-grandparents to arrive in America, not speaking the language, looking so very different from everyone else. The challenges they faced and the promise and loss of assimilation.
We folded into the American identity seamlessly.
And today, I start my journey of reclaiming a piece of my family’s history. It isn’t just research for the book I write, but a way to tell the story of a people I never had a chance to meet. And although time separates us, the traditions and culture and customs will unite us.
For the next several months I am going to make one Syrian/Lebanese meal each week primarily using this website:The Lemon Bowl, until I find a good cookbook to use. If you are adventurous join me in my culinary journey!
How do you remember your ethnicity? Share in comments below.