I don’t get the fuss about ethnic hyphenation. It seems kind of silly and in my case, cumbersome. The hyphenated American profile of my direct ancestry, which goes back many centuries, is 40 geographic/ethnic places/peoples long. And that’s just the great to the Nth grandparents I know about–no telling from whence the thousands of unknown ones might hail.
Here, in no particular order, is my hyphenated ancestry/ethnicity, i.e. what kind of American I am. I’m a Dutch-Danish-Norwegian-Swedish-Jute-Northumbrian-Finnish-Pictiish-Saxon-Norman-Welsh-English-Irish-Kentish-Mercian-Bernician-Austrasian-Nuestrian-Burgundian-French-Spanish-German-Russian-Polish-Scottish-Bavarian-Belgian-Flemish-Asgardian/Asian-Czechoslovakian-Ukrainian-Byelorussian-Bretagneian-Franconian-Prussian-Austrian-Roman-Italian-Luxembourgian-Colonial North American-American.
If a hyphen is required, as so many people who wish to distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups seem to think, it would be shorter and easier to just call myself a not-Portuguese American. That’s one of the few places in Europe where I don’t have any direct ancestors–at least not that I’ve been able to find.
A number of my ancestors came to the colonies in the early 1600’s. The earliest arrived in the 1620’s. On the flip side, one grandmother was an undocumented immigrant who entered the country legally. At least, she and her family came on a European ship in the late 19th century. Her name and those of her parents and siblings, are on the ship’s manifest. But there’s no record of her ever formally becoming a U.S. citizen, or having a visa or other certification so I’m not sure what that makes her–legal or illegal. But those family members were farmers, so that makes them undocumented migrant farmworkers, doesn’t it? Grandma’s parents never learned to speak English either according to old census sheets. They spoke (Prussian) German.
I’m guessing there are many, many Americans who look down their noses at undocumented migrant farmworkers, not realizing that’s exactly what their ancestors were. Back in the day in the 18th and 19th centuries, when this country wanted to increase its population, no one was asking too many questions.
So be careful who you stigmatize–you could be talking about your own family. I think in the USA we’re mostly a bunch of mutts. Some people refer to that as “the melting pot”. But growing up, in my family there were no hyphenations. We just thought of ourselves as “Americans”.