The Color of Scarlet by Shahni Ben Haim

For my “hybrid” identity a lot of people say I am Israeli because my parents were born in Israel yet I was born in the United States and I am a first generation American. I myself identify as a first generation American who grew up with an influence of Israeli culture. I never felt truly Israeli due to my Israeli family heavily putting me in the American category. I felt like an outsider when I would visit because I was never truly embraced in my family. I also have a hard time in my Jewish identity. I was raised with it as a part of my culture more than a tradition. So I connect to it more spiritually than religiously.

My name is an Israeli name that means the color scarlet. When my parents named me they asked my great uncle by marriage how to spell my name in English and he said, S-H-A-H-N-I, he pronounces my name wrong ‘til this day. Many other Israeli’s with the name usually spell it S-H-A-N-I and I often have my name mispronounced just because of that extra H.

When I got my Ancestry DNA results back I thought back to my lineage and what I have been told versus what the results actually were. I discovered that I am 47 percent west Asian, 51 percent European and 2 percent African. More specifically 2 percent north African, 24 percent European Jewish, 24 percent Italy/Greece, 25 percent Caucasus, and 22 percent middle eastern.

It is unclear to my family where my Italian/Greek side of my family comes from but from what my paternal grandmother tells me is that her family immigrated to Israel from Morocco but went through Italy or Greece. I have been told we are originally Moroccan but thoughts are my ancestors spent many years in Italy or Greece because if interbreeding didn’t happen how would 24 percent of my DNA be Italian or Greek.

The percentage of Caucasus in my DNA makes sense to me because my maternal grandfather is from Iraq and as far as I know many generations before him are from Iraq. Although my mother claims we have some Persian decent from his side many generation before him.

In regards to the Jewish and Middle Eastern aspect of my heritage is that my parents were born and raised in Israel where the primary religion was Jewish. I’ve mainly only explored the Israeli heritage I have, but now after learning a lot more beyond my Middle Eastern heritage I am inclined to learn a lot more of my European side. I am trying to learn more Italian and Greek heritage and history so that I can be aware of who I truly am.

I think lessons news media can gain from this is to realize who the news media representatives’ cultural backgrounds truly are. It can help journalists truly understand their connections to the backgrounds they understand and know when to step back from a story in which they might have a bias. Understanding where they truly come from will eliminate the bias and help their credibility by being ethically aware on what they are writing about. Intending to write about something where a journalist has an opinion or bias and gearing the article towards that can damage reputation and credibility and, as the popular term nowadays, it’s creating “fake news.” In the end I truly do believe that cultural background support a bias in journalism and that if journalists choose to protect their credibility, they need to be truly aware of their stance on the topic they are covering.

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