Ashley RabenoldEnglish 102Brian WalkerJanuary 16, 2018 The essay HERS; Cultural Baggage by Barbara Ehrenreich was published April 5, 1992. The author begins by explaining how a discussion with an acquaintance led her to reevaluate her ethnic background. Barbara is asked what her ethnic background was and without pausing to think deeper, she quickly asserts “none”.

Suddenly, it hits her; it is not as she has no ethnicity but instead is unsure of a proper answer. Her background consists of too many variances to truly classify her as one or another. She elaborates that her family contains many adoptions, and what she defines as “broken ties”. She questions herself as if this statement made her feel like as if she was rejecting her “heritage out of Anglo-Celtic self-hate”. Looking back, her feelings about her ethnicity stemmed back from the 1960’s and 70’s when she would see people from other ethnicities celebrating their background while Barbara only thought of her ancestors as being the ones to step on theirs.

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 Barbara exclaimed she felt un-American as she was one ones growing up without a hyphen in her name.Meanwhile, as she questions her ethnicity, she thinks back to her childhood where culture was not celebrated in the home. Her family would eat ethnic foods, but they were not foods prepared in the home but more of gifts from others.

Ehrenreich proclaimed her mother would insist she try a variety of foods for experience. The author tells about how as a child she briefly craved learning about her culture but lost interest after learning to believed they were uncivilized. She reinforces her belief with the statement “And then in my early teens I was stung by Disraeli’s remark to the effect that his ancestors had been leading orderly, literate lives when my ancestors were still rampaging through the Highlands daubing themselves with blue paint.”Previously, Barbara believed that her problems with ethnicity would disappear after marrying a man who carries an ethnic background but that did not suffice. One day, she tries to discuss ethnicity and religion with her children but quickly realizes that her children were just as aware as Barbara in that their family didn’t celebrate their ancestry and that she should stop fooling herself.  Suddenly, Ehrenreich was having an epiphany; she realized that when she was growing up there was never any correct way of doing things just because “grandma did it this way”.

Her family is the type to not follow a tradition just because those before her did. She thought back to realize her parents always thought new was better; some habits are better left abandoned.Finally, she begins to change her outlook on her ethnicity and realize what she was believing was all wrong.

Now understanding that her ancestors lived with the same ideas, “think for yourself” and to “try new things” and that is what spread them across the world. She finds that “skepticism, curiosity and wide-eyed ecumenical tolerance” are just as important as the actual labels of ethnicity itself. In the end, the author concludes by asking her children what they felt about their ethnic identity. Barbara reported she was a proud mother as they responded “none, and the world would be a better place if nobody else did, either.

” “Cultural Baggage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Apr. 1992, www. 1 Jan ,2018 


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