Through the process of learning about my roots, I have become more in touch and understanding of my family. I originally thought I was primarily German, but my family and I were pretty far off. My DNA test results show that I am 100 percent European, but more Scottish, Irish and Scandinavian than German.
My mom was certain we were Scottish, but not as much as the tests showed. When I sent the results to a group Email message to my family, my mom responded “See Dan, we are more Scottish!” That’s because my dad had thought that his German background would be more prominent in our family, but it turns out he was also more Scottish than he originally thought.
My grandma (my dad’s mom), who is mostly German, told me about growing up on a farm and how hard it was to be a German in America in that time, but at least it was leading to a more prosperous life than that of one in Germany in the post WWII era. My grandma grew up in North Dakota on a rhubarb farm where they had a couple of horses for getting to and from school. She was exceedingly intelligent and graduated high school when she was 14. She was never able to go to nursing school like she had always wanted because her family was dirt poor.
When looking through my Ancestry profile, it linked a nomadic tribe of Germans to the region of Dakota’s in America. This was so eye-opening to me because I thought my grandmother’s family was alone. But it seems that many Germans crossed the ocean to live a better life. It also said that many Germans were ridiculed during this era, even though they were known for their hard work ethic and their farming abilities.
My grandma never flaunted growing up on a poor farm with all of her brothers and sisters, but she has reason to be proud. I found out that it was my German ancestors, including my grandma who lives in Arizona now, who are responsible for transforming the American Midwest with their culture and work ethic. Even today it is still highly populated with Germans who emigrated, and I have met that family and they all are mainly still in North Dakota. Another fact; my ancestors introduced the Christmas tree and Easter egg hunts to the Americans.
My family members take pride in their work ethic and in not taking any help from the government; they are also Republican. I feel like this prideful work ethic was instilled from our ancestors who worked so hard to establish themselves in the states. They were below blue collar Americans when they came here, but persisted nonetheless. I am always complimented on my work ethic in both jobs and school. I think that is why I want to be a journalist, because I know how to work hard and fairly. I also love journalism, so my work ethic is that much better.
These insights will help me to cover diverse communities immensely because I have never felt like I have a culture. Being white, I am automatically assumed to be privileged and that my family didn’t have any struggles. It brought me down a lot and when people would tell me about how their ancestors struggled, I would feel like I had nothing to say back, or that I should apologize because I am white. But, it turns out I come from a line of hard-working people who did face prejudice when they came to America, and they worked as hard as they could to align themselves with some form of the American dream. They did just that. Can I say my family’s struggles compare to those of people from non-European nations, no. But, I do come from a background where things were not just handed to us. I learned what I always knew, my family worked for everything they had. They struggled, but they persisted. That is what inspires me to continue to be a journalist today.
Both sides of media have a lot to learn about diversity within communities. Everything today is so slanted. Either it is a generalization of white people having no culture or non-white people having too much culture that inflicts upon society. We need to understand that generations of people, no matter what their skin color or ethnicity, come from struggle. America has, and hopefully always will be, a place where people came to live a more prosperous life.
All immigrants here had to face prejudice and bias from the people who were already here. Although that struggle was defined differently it does not mean that it is irrelevant or less of a struggle than another. All of our ancestors faced hardships, and journalists need to be cognizant of, and inform people about, the hardships that are happening of today. There was nobody covering German immigrants and their struggles in the freezing North Dakota winters with no fresh food or means of transportation. There was nobody covering a lot of issues or struggles and now here we are and we know nothing of our past because it was not documented. We owe the future the true coverage of what is happening in our society today. That is what can be learned from this experience—truth and understanding for generations to come.