File - Krystal Barlow

A Self Reflection of My Ethnical Roots and Heritage
Krystal Barlow
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
This paper identifies the different ethnicities that make up my background and also provides
details of my family’s history and their life experience. In this paper, I elaborate on what has
made me who I am and what has enlightened me to come to my personal identity. Diversity is
mentioned to reflect experiences that I have had and experiences that I will have when I become
a professional social worker.
Ethnic Heritage consists of English, Scottish,
Irish and Welsh. Race is Caucasian.
Ethnic heritage consists of English, Irish and
Scottish. Race is Caucasian.
Ethnic heritage consists of English and
Scottish. Race is Caucasian.
Ethnic heritage consists of English, Irish and
Scottish. Race is Caucasian.
Ethnic Heritage consists of English and Welsh.
Race is Caucasian.
Ethnic Heritage consists of Welsh. Race is
Ethnic Heritage consists of English. Race is
Heritage is something special that cannot be taken away, it can only be given. For many
people, heritage becomes lost because it is not truly understood. As for me, I never
acknowledged or embraced my ethnicity and heritage until now. Through tracing my roots and
gathering details from my family’s experiences, I now have a sense of self--a true identity.
As I began drawing from my family’s details, I concluded that my ethnicity consisted of
English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. I was very intrigued by my findings. According to U.S. State
Department (2005), English immigrants endured the trip to America to break free of political and
religious oppression. English settlers also fled England due to lack of job opportunity (U.S. State
Department, 2005). Through research I am now aware that my Irish ancestors had struggles as
well, very similar to that of the English. As noted by Kenny (2008), Irish immigrants greatly
impacted America by not only offering diversity, but cultural pluralism. In comparison to my
Irish ancestors, the culture of my Scottish ancestors was merely based on personalization rather
than attempting to seek tangible benefits from it (McCarthy, 2006). As for my Welsh ancestry, I
can only gather that they came to America for many of the same reasons as my other ancestors.
What is known about my Welsh background, stated by Wolensky (2010), is that my ancestors
used their full potential and used the available cultural resources to become successful in
By furthering an examination of my own family’s ethnic and cultural history, I have
noted the linkage of my English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. As a child growing up in
America, I failed to recognize the meaning and importance of ethnicity and identity. Race was
something that was readily available to me as it merely implies physical differentiation. I always
knew that I was white and others were the same as me or different. Growing up, my scope of
understanding people of a different color was practically non-existent.
For my mother, little to no thought was ever put into being of European heritage. To her,
she was born the way she was meant to be, and she holds that true to everyone. My grandmother
in essence, had the same mindset as my mom, as she was the one to instill that notion of
everyone being as they were meant to be. As for my grandfather, I am told that he held his race
in high esteem; he was very proud of who and what he was.
Race association has always been important to my father. Like my mother’s dad, my
father is also proud of his race and ethnicity. My grandmother is keen on her race and ethnic
background because she believes in self pride and self worth. My grandfather is particularly
fond of his race because like my grandmother, he believes in self value.
As my mother is from Ohio, she was never exposed to many races outside of her own.
She grew up in the small town of New Boston and first spoke to an African American person
when she moved to North Carolina. My grandmother grew up in Ohio as well and generally
reflects my mother’s experience. My grandfather however, was from Kentucky. He came from
a very rural area which separated him from mainstream society. My father is a Durham, North
Carolina native. He lived in a suburban area and had school interactions with people of different
races. My grandmother is also a North Carolinian. She grew up on an orchard with her large
nuclear family. Like my dad, my grandfather was also born and raised in Durham North
Carolina. He lived in fairly populated area, but had little to no interaction with people of
different races.
Being that my dad is middle-aged and hails from the South, he was raised with a southern
mentality concerning race. What was instilled in him was that being white was right. On the
other hand, other races could not be equally trusted like those of his own race. I believe that my
dad grew up with an ideal image of the white persona, but now he has adapted to a more open
minded perspective on racial differences. For my mother, accepting others’ differences has
never been an issue. She has always told me that when she looks at a person, she sees just that-a person. She does not see a color or a boundary between herself and the person.
When I was small, around the age of three or four, my mother took me with her to shop at
Sear’s. While shopping, an African American lady was looking at clothes racks beside us and I
asked my mom why that lady was there. According to my mom, the lady appeared to be very
offended and regarded my comment as a result of my mom’s teachings. As of today, I still do
not know where my question came from. I am not sure if it was just out of curiosity being that I
was so young, or if somehow the thought of superiority or white dominance played a role. On
the contrary, when I was young and in elementary school, I was very open to making friends
with all different types of children. I had Mexican-American friends and African American
friends, and we never rejected each other due to physical differences.
Growing up, I never had too many friends from school come to my house. Generally, the
children I played with and had over at my house were my neighbors. None of my neighbors
were racially different than me, so I never had an experience with people of different cultural
backgrounds come to my house.
Although I am pretty comfortable being around diverse people, I would be wrong to deny
that it is somewhat challenging for me to set aside unsettled feelings in regards to our ethnical
differences. For example, when I am approached by an African American male, I usually
experience a brief moment of extreme anxiety. I believe my nervousness comes from being
worried that the person wants to hit on me or make a comment about my body shape. From past
experiences that I have had, I believe the uneasy feelings have now translated from a few
experiences to almost every encounter I have with an African American male. Also, when I
encounter people different than myself, I feel self-conscious. Being a timid person, I tend to
believe people are constantly picking me over for my flaws. The feeling is intensified when I
come into contact with groups of ethnically different people because I fear not being accepted
and not being accredited for who I am. In hopes of being a future social worker, I need to reach
clarity with myself. Before I can help someone with their struggles, I need to process and take
action to control my own insecurities and become comfortable with myself, in turn, diminishing
prejudice thoughts.
Through all of my twenty-three years of living in a rural community of North Carolina, I
have heard many derogatory comments about different races. I have heard that all Muslims need
to die before they kill Americans; I have heard that African Americans get everything for free at
the government’s expense. Hearing foul comments like those I have mentioned intensely bothers
me. In response to the things that I have heard, I can only say that one does not make up a
million. Every culture, ethnicity, and race has its deviant. It is not fair to categorize a whole
group of people based on the actions of a few. Stereotyping is the root issue of malicious
comments that are continuously being made.
Before I ever knew I wanted to be a social worker, I first had to make the decision to
become a student of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. When I made that choice, I
blindly immersed myself into great new experiences. I feel that simply being a student at a
university opened the door to a threshold of diversity. Before being a college student I never
lived with someone outside of my race. I now have a roommate who is African American and
although we are two very different people, we relate on so many levels. Through my roommate,
I have been fortunate enough to make many other friends who are outside of my race. By
meeting those great people, it only proves to me more that everyone is connected and can relate
in some way. As a future social worker, I can take my experience and apply it to someone in
need. My experience will allow me to better empathize with my client by knowing that I can
identify with them in some way.
Finding a close friend for me is very challenging. Throughout all of my years, I have
had innumerous amounts of best friends. As I matured, I realized who has had my best interest
and who has not. I have cut a lot of stressful ties as a result of me growing and becoming more
independent. By doing so, I feel refreshed and empowered to be myself. In the process of
distancing myself from many, I have been privileged enough to gain a few true friends. I
consider my roommate who is African American to be one of my close friends because we are so
different, but prove to be so similar at the same time. Another close friend is a Caucasian female
who is my age. She is such a genuine person who has everyone in her best interest. My other
close friend is a forty-one year old, Caucasian, female police officer. She has helped give me
confidence and has encouraged me with everything I have done. Although I have more friends
who are Caucasian like me, I do not see color or ethnicity as being a limitation. When it comes
to friendship, I look no further than someone’s character.
By looking deep into my heritage and my interactions with people who are different than
me, I have discovered a correlation. By talking with my family about their history, I realized that
they all had something to be proud of, whether it was their ability to see past racial differences or
just being proud of who they are and where they came from. Also by sifting through my
family’s history, I see that they all came from different places, but still they managed to find
common ground with each other--being brought together as one. Reflecting on myself has
revealed to me that my family has instilled me with different things to be proud of. I am also
more aware of the choices I have made and the choices I need to make in order to push me
further towards success as a social worker. After self reflection, I can now associate myself as
being a free thinker and a compassionate person. I am able to set aside differences and look at
what myself and others share. In order for me to be culturally competent, I have to know myself.
Now that I know where I come from and why I am here, it leaves me with the understanding that
differences are what makes us and brings us together. By understanding my roots and how my
family got here, I am more knowledgeable about how all cultures must work together and bring
out the best in each other. In social work, one must see potential and capability in everyone. As
a social worker, I will work with a client to set a goal and together, through diversity and all, we
will strive to cross the finish line.
The essence of this paper was to capture my own identity. I am now able to make
correlations from my family’s past to the present. Although my mother and my father are very
different people and came from different places, they still managed to unite. To be a social
worker, I will be helping people who are very diverse from me. According to Crisp and Turner
(2011), diversity plays an essential role in modern day society. This stands true to me because throughout
everyone’s uniqueness, we all have something special to offer. By writing this paper, I now have a sense
of self and can identify myself with my cultural heritage. When dealing with people of different
backgrounds in the field of social work, I can give them value based on their ethnic differences, their
group identities, and their personal experiences (Johns and Jordan, 2006).
Crisp R.J., & Turner R.N. (2011). Cognitive Adaptation to the Experience of Social and Cultural
Diversity. Centre for the Study of Group Processes. Retrieved from
Johns, N. N., & Jordan, B. B. (2006). Social work, merit and ethnic diversity. The British
Journal Of Social Work, 36(8), 1271-1288.
Kenny, K (2008). Irish Immigrants in the United States. Retrieved from
McCarthy, A. (2006). Scottish national identities among inter-war migrants in North America
and Australasia. Journal Of Imperial & Commonwealth History, 34(2), 201-222.
U.S. State Department (2005). Outline of History. Retrieved from
Wolensky, R. P. (2010). Welsh Americans: A History of Assimilation in the Coal Fields. Journal
Of American Ethnic History, 30(1), 141-143.
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