In the 2000 census, Americans were asked to state their "ancestry." Here's a map of the most common answers in each county (most were pluralities, not majorities). The light blue throughout the north is German, the dark purple band in the South is African American, the purple in Utah and the northeast is English, the pink along the Mexican border is Mexican, and the yellow in the South is "American."
Where the Real Americans are
I found the map the other day (since it's based on 2000 census data, I'm sure it's been going around for a while) and was surprised to see plain "American" on the list, as a group separate from "American Indian." Not only that, they make up the largest ethnic group in a significantly large part of the country, and are found almost all over. This map is a population density map of people who responded "American" to the same question:
"American" as an ethnicity was considered a subset of the "European American" race (but America's not in Europe!). I'm guessing there are a lot of white folks out there who don't know where their families came from.
There isn't a particular problem with this. I think that "American" as a category would work well for someone like me, who, if I went back up each line of my family to when someone was living in the Old World, I'd have a majority of no single ancestry, and a plurality whose own background is unknown to me. Thinking of "American" as a trans-racial ethnicity could help people claim ethnic mixing and not caring (since people who left that question blank were classified as "American") as a valid ancestral category in and of itself.
But that's not what the map indicates; the category of people who said their were "American" is neither trans-racial nor very trans-geographic.
I'm wondering why these people are concentrated south of the Mason-Dixon Line, with the notable exception of Indiana, and east of the continental divide. In other words, the Old South and the states that were for a time on either side, Kentucky and West Virginia.
I'm sure there's a wonderful historical explanation for this, but to me it lends credence to the idea that the white race was a concept developed directly because of the presence of Black people, used to unify people of European descent against the oppressed population. Which makes sense to me - in France, there are no white people, just French people, English people, Polish people, Spanish people, etc. The white race is an American concept that must have come from our unique history of race in trying to create understandings of race that would continue to oppress Black people, as well as American Indians.
The creation of the unified, pan-European white race was meant to create a center in America, a Real American that gets used to flog the rest of us to this day. And since Real Americans always seem to be more conservative than the rest of us, it makes sense that people who don't even think about their ethnic origins would be concentrated in more conservative states. Either that, or questions along the lines of "Well, what kind of white are you?" aren't that important in areas where being white is all that matters.
This is probably intimately related to this:
The Revealer raises a troubling question about Texas exit-poll data.
19% of respondents id'd themselves as "Other Christian" -- neither Catholic nor Protestant. Really? This must reflect the huge Greek Orthodox community in Texas, right? Or is it possible that 19% don't know that their tradition is Protestant?
This is why we need to teach religion in public schools. I'm serious! Religious literacy is important for everyone regardless of their personal affilliation/convictions/lack thereof. And religious institutions clearly can't be trusted to contextualize their teachings.
Without knowing the place their specific sect has in the history of Christianity, it's easier to think that one is a real Christian, and all other interpretations of the Bible are aberrations from that norm.
In that sense, centralization and a sense of entitlement lends these people to be less compromising in their beliefs, since they are the Real Christians. And, like the Real Americans, that would make them conservative (I'm assuming that Texas has a higher population of Christian conservatives than normal).
All of this points to the importance of centralizing and normalizing one's identity for political power. I've seen enough of politics to know that people who feel that they're entitled to what they was are the ones far less likely to compromise their goals, and the ones far more likely to get what they want.
How this translates into gay rights politics, well, I'm not there yet. But I did find the maps interesting.