I discovered that my last name of ‘Laing’ comes from Scotland! The word ‘Laing’ itself was given to people who were long and tall. I find this particularly amusing, as I am only 5 foot 3, and all of the relatives on the Laing side of my family are pretty short as well.
While I may not live up to the meaning of my last name, I have discovered that I have relatives from Scotland. Neither of my parents had ever mentioned the possibility of Scottish ancestors, so I guess they were not even aware of where ‘Laing’ really comes from. However, I always knew that I had ancestors near Scotland, particularly in England. I learned that many, many of my relatives on my dad’s side are from England.
My dad passed away when I was nine years old, so he had never told me all that much about his family. My mother also does not know that much about his family, but I was able to uncover that both of his parents and both of their parents were from various parts of England. My dad’s parents were the ones who broke their British roots and came to the United States to attend college. They both moved back to England, where they eventually passed away. My dad’s blood pretty much consists mostly of United Kingdom genes, with relatives not only from England and Scotland, but also from Wales and Ireland.
Perhaps my most interesting discovery was about my mom’s lineage. My mom grew up in New York and so did her grandparents and so did her great grandparents. Basically, my mom’s entire line of recent descendants lived on the East Coast in either New York or the New England area. The reason this East Coast lineage goes so far back is because she is descended from a few people who came over to America on the Mayflower! The Mayflower sailed from England all the way back in the 1600s, so it is crazy to think that some of my relatives had lived in America before it was even officially America.
Much of this information I have had to find out on my own, as neither of my parents knew all too much about their families. Because of this, I do not have any family heirlooms. In fact, I do not even have any family photos of any relatives beyond my parents and grandparents. Though I now know where many of them came from, I wish I was able to know more about who they really were as people. I suppose this can be considered an advantage in a way, as I am free to be who I want to be, not who I think that I should be. I believe that I am also able to better connect with those of different backgrounds, as I do not feel particularly connected to a specific background myself.
While others in the class might not have any ancestors from Europe, I still do believe that we are all connected. Technology and modern conveniences have made life much easier for our current generation, but our ancestors did not have that luxury. All of our ancestors struggled together—through wars, natural disasters, diseases, famines and discrimination. And yet all of our ancestors made it through those terrible times and passed their genes to us. Though we all may come from different places and are different races, what it comes down to is that we are really only one race—the human race.
Despite not having much of a diverse cultural background myself, I actually think that will help me as a journalist covering a diverse community. What I mean by this is that I am very curious to discover other cultures and communities! On the exterior, yes I am pretty much as “diversely lacking” as it gets- white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes. But on the interior, my mind is hungry to learn about the ways of life that my own genes have never experienced. I have been to the places of my ancestors such as England and New England and honestly did not find the people in either place to be particularly interesting. However, I have found that places I have travelled with such a different culture than my own have been the most interesting. Two such places were Hong Kong and Morocco, where I travelled to in the past year. I was both overwhelmed and fascinated by their different ways of life in comparison with Europe and America, who have quite similar cultures. As a photojournalist, I found the people of Asia and Africa to be more visually interesting, that their faces contained stories that I attempted to capture.
I think that the news media can also gain from recognizing our family history. Unfortunately, one of the reasons that the public finds it hard to trust the news media right now is because many news outlets are biased. More specifically, some of them report with racial bias. As I mentioned earlier, we are all part of the same race and that is the human race. There would be much more accurate reporting and trust in the news media if everyone could just see that and report facts exactly as they are, not how a prejudice reporter thinks they should be.