Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ethnic stereotypes and discrimination within 'white' ethnic groups in the U.S.

I posted a version of this a few weeks ago, then took it down, and am now reposting another one because I think it's worth saying.

Basically, I've had the experience on many occasions, when people somewhat get to know me, and like me, of assuming that because of my last name I'm Jewish. It's meant to be complimentary, in the sense that they think I'm possibly talented, and intellectually oriented, but it denies my own ethnic heritage, and demonstrates that the people who say this don't take into consideration the possibility that a person with a heavily Polish last name who is intellectual and talented could actually be Polish.

In point of fact, I've had people argue back to me, suggesting that I was possibly descended from Sephardic Jews who migrated to Hungary, which is absurd, despite also having Hungarian ancestry.

Stereotypes abound in American society, but while, in my opinion, whatever heavily negative stereotypes about people who are Jewish that once existed have largely been replaced by the character of the nebbish intellectual, when it comes to people who are Polish and Italian, the same negative stereotypes still apply.

I'm Italian as well, so forgive me for being sensitive on that aspect of the issue.

There are loveable Woody Allen type intellectuals....and then there are dumb Polacks and Jersey Shore and Mafioso goombah Italians.  If the idea of a Polish intellectual rarely comes up in American society, the idea that an Italian could be an intellectual is something that's almost unthinkable. Yet on a personal level, I know that I know more Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Schelling than 99.9% percent of Americans, if that.

I remember one of my roommates at Evergreen once affectionately posting a picture of a guy in a skullcap diligently studying at a desk at a Yeshivah on my door as a tribute to my studiousness.  I would have appreciated it much more if he had payed attention to who I actually was, not who he thought that I must be with my last name and with my facial characteristics and darker skin coloring.

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