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How to deal with blatant racism against my ethnic group?

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Every day, I face the same racism by country Bumpkins because I "don't look like I'm from around here."  I've been told I'm an "outsider" and that people like me moving here from other places make the land expensive.  When I was younger I had basically no friends because of this bias and also because my family was not religious.  Buddies from school weren't allowed to come to my house because my parents weren't church goers and would tell me right to my face that they don't feel good sending my friend over to my house because of that.  They would correct me if I said something they didn't like and treat me very strangely.  This continuted on into junior high and high.  Individuals would often make jokes like, "how many of you does it take to change a light bulb" and they were intended in a mean way.  I got called "round head" "dumb polka" and "ugly slav" and I don't even have those features, it was just because of my last name.  People would whisper racial slurs behind my back, told me not to sit near them, threatened me, and I had to take it. I never told anyone because I was so ashamed of it.  People refuse to believe this when I tell them, but it is most certainly true.  I could go on and on about it, but the gist of it is because of all this I developed an overly introverted personality and don't have many connections or friends.  I have also experienced subtle hints of racism in my adult life as well, for example, a boy who I knew well that liked me practically cussed me out when he heard that some of my family is Polish (he asked in response to hearing my last name).  He apologised profusely afterwards though.  

It has been an issue for so long that I've almost started to internalize it or believe it.  I have always thought it evil, but you can't help but start to feel inferior after so many people have told you that for so long.  I want to move somewhere else, but I have to stay here because of financial aid issues.  

Do you think young children should be allowed to verbally cut someone down because of their ethnic group?  Is that free speech?  I don't think so, but I did for a long time.I've always hated being who I am, because people notice me for my last name and not who I really am. I AM AN American!  It is a terrible thing for my self confidence.  Would it be wrong and defeatist of me to change my name?

Edited by Dreamspirit
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That is why a few people I've told don't believe me.  My guess is because there is either a bias against them because they are typically catholic as opposed to protestant like WASPs are or because there is some old bias against "immigrant" groups.  All I know is, most WASPS in my area, esp German baptists despize them.  It may have been that it was just something started by some kids making fun of my last name and they thought it was a good way to insult me.  There were other insults unrelated to that but it was mostly "round head" or things related to ethnic jokes.  I don't even speak the language or know much about Poland lol, I just have that last name.  I always thought about how miserable it was to be defined by your heritage when I was little, I thought it was peculiar but I accepted it because I didn't really know it could be evil.The thing I don't understand is how my Polish last name of all things is related to my family "coming in and making the land expensive" because we have been here for a long time.If my parents had've known the full extent of it they would have gone through the roof though. But I didn't tell them though because I was afraid of it, and accepted that I was bad or gross or whatever, just because I wanted to fit in.

Edited by Dreamspirit
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Integration of Polish citizens used to be a whole point before the 40s (Eastern and Southern Euros were considered undesired as legislated in the Johnson Reed immigration act of 1924). Then came the war with Poland as somewhat of the (passive) trigger. Catholics (or ex Catholic atheists) in Baptist land were never welcomed with open arms. When you add atheism with slavic heritage images of Communism might come to the average mind of your county.

There was a time when Germans were considered difficult to integrate but now American whites identify their ancestry with Germanany more than with any other Old World nation - that is unless you live in either coastal metro area where the mix only leaves Italians as a majority within European Americans.

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I'm not even American but I believe you as, while ridiculous as this sounds to my urban mind, I understand inter European racism and I even see it's a theme in literature.

In your case

"I am not a Pollack. People from Poland are Poles. They are not Pollacks. But what I am is one hundred percent American. I'm born and raised in the greatest country on this earth and I'm proud of it. And don't you ever call me a Pollack. " Stanley Kovalski, a Streetcar called Desire, Tennessee Williams

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First off - I believe you. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with you. They are the ones with the problem. You just have to take that, internalize it, make it your shield. They are wrong and evil and too stupid to see it.

I also happen to be Polish and have a Polish last name, but where I grew up, that was actually pretty common. I'm sure there was anti-Polish sentiment in some areas of town due to history, but since Poles and Slavs generally were and are such a large group in my hometown they wouldn't exactly be able to target a given person. No, when I was a kid I basically just got hounded for being a freak. I was the "different" one, and being remarkably intelligent without the ability or desire to hide it in a blue-collar union town just after the mills closed was something of a liability. Although my torments had nothing to do with my ethnicity or my last name, I know a great deal about what you've gone through and how you feel like you are all alone. I didn't talk about it much with my parents either because I wanted to be stronger than that and not be a whiner. You just have to come to the conclusion, as I did, that since their behavior flies in the face of all reason, they are the ones with issues. Leave them to their stupid tribalist behavior. Try to find some friends from the outside, like maybe at your university or on the internet. Realize that there is a world beyond the bubble in which you're currently trapped.

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Where do you live? I have many Catholic friends of Polish background, and NONE have experienced what you claim to have experienced. I live in the Midwest, so perhaps there are some regional differences?

I have experienced nutty anti-Catholicism from some Baptists, but obviously that's not a factor in your situation. I also would like to know if this is racism, as you claim, or merely the fact that not many people like your personality and thus are using any insult handy (in this case, your ethnicity) to express that. It would be important to know, then, if you know of other individuals of Polish extraction who have experienced the same unpleasantness to the degree that you have (apart from anti-Catholicism, which, as you have noted, infects some WASPs and Baptists).

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You're throwing the word 'racism' around much too lightly and carelessly. You have never been prejudged negatively based on your appearance, and never will (unless you live in a predominately non-white community). At the end of the day, you're blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and that's a gift as far as preconceived notions go.

You may have been the butt of Polish jokes, as they have become fashionable over the last few years, but you're certainly not the victim of racism.

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Baptists are the people that started it and are generally the ones who carry through with it over time while the rest dropped it.  I don't know of any individuals around here of Polish descent other than myself.  However, there is a large Greek community where I live and I know they get similar treatment.  There might have been a few that moved here recently when I was graduating, and I actually overheard someone talking about them in a bit of a funny way, but they were twin boys so since I am a female with no other siblings in my age group you can't really compare my situation to theirs.  I know my older sister experienced a similar thing, she never had any friends better than acquaintances, but she never experienced such severe bullying, people left her alone, except for other girls who were jealous of her intelligence.  What's funny is she doesn't remember much reference to ethnic discrimination, mostly what she experienced was discrimination because of her intelligence, but I'm sure it was a small factor because back then there were many more baptists, there just wasn't as much bullying.  People would see your last name and know you came from somewhere else and hate it.  

It is definitely discrimination, because any time people think less of you because of your heritage, they are discriminating against you with an irrational basis.  I suppose you could say it is more focused on the fact that I am not descended from their culture and come from somewhere else rather than that I am part ethnically Polish, but that definitely is racism or if you want to get technical, ethno-cultural discrimination.  I don't view what happened to me as on the same level as an African-American congressman who get's threats and KKK graffiti all over his signs, but it is definitely discrimination, because it effects my life negatively. Blonde hair and blue eyes have nothing to do with it.

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I'll ask again: where do you live? The situation you describe is one entirely foreign to my experience. I live in the Midwest, and Polish, Irish, German and Scandinavian ancestry is quite common around here. It is basically a Lutheran/Catholic religious mix, with no real problems between the two. I know of NO ONE who has experienced the kind of behavior you say you have had to deal with.

Again, I have known of some nasty anti-Catholic nuttiness to come from Baptists, but since you're an atheist, it hardly seems, then, as if your ethnic background being Catholic is the real problem.

I don't think you've made the case for "blatant racism", as you don't have other examples to give of other people of Polish background having the same kind of experience. You mentioned your older sister had some problems, though not to your extent: does it occur to you that your problems relating to other people might have another source other than your ethnicity? I think the charge of "racism" gets thrown about too readily: unless you can give me concrete examples of many other individuals of Polish extraction in your area having the SAME DEGREE of problems that you have encountered (separate from anti-Catholicism or anti-Orthodox as in the case of the Greeks), then you haven't made your case.

Look, I don't want to dump on you, but as I noted in another thread, you come off as a very angry person. Perhaps you have good cause to be, I don't know. But I can tell you that an angry person who looks to blame others or who sees racism as the cause for their problems is not going to be highly regarded, no matter what their ethnic background. It might be that you have alienated many people, who then childishly get back at you by slamming your ethnicity. That's not the same thing as "blatant racism".

Don't be a victim.

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I don't think you've made the case for "blatant racism", as you don't have other examples to give of other people of Polish background having the same kind of experience.

I'm not sure why that would be a requirement. Why would that be necessary? If only one or two people of a minority race or ethnicity live in an area predominately populated by another race or ethnicity, they couldn't be the targets of racism? That makes no sense.

It sounds like you don't care to take her at her word, let's say, just for the sake of argument. IF what she was saying was true, what advice would you give her to address her question?

Is there something her posting history that causes you to question her character or veracity rather than considering that she's accurately relaying her experiences?

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"I'm not sure why that would be a requirement. Why would that be necessary?"

It might be that it's her personality, or the way she dresses, or some other trait that other people don't like, and not "blatant racism". (Frankly, I think that's a term that gets thrown out quite carelessly these days.) "Blatant racism" suggests that it's full-blown out there for everyone to see, but she mentions that her sister wasn't treated as badly as she was. So it's reasonable to ask: are there other people of Polish descent that have been treated as she is? Has she been denied employment because of her ethnicity? Has she been red-lined, and steered towards housing in areas with other undesirable Poles? Has she been told that, because she is Polish, she aught to set her career goals rather low because she is incapable of the intelligence necessary for a demanding career?

"If only one or two people of a minority race or ethnicity live in an area predominately populated by another race or ethnicity, they couldn't be the targets of racism? That makes no sense."

Of course they could be the targets of racism. Racism manifests itself in certain forms of discrimination(I mentioned a few above), the common denominator being a dislike or hatred for another race or ethnic background, which does not allow for the appreciation of the individual as a person. However, people can be stupid, cruel, or just plain nasty to individuals they don't like without it being necessarly racist, even if they employ derogatory terms towards that individual's ethnic background as an expression of their dislike. So, again, it's reasonable to ask: do these people treat all Polish this way? Or is this a case of an individual being disliked?

"IF what she was saying was true, what advice would you give her to address her question?"

I would say that it would make sense for her to either move to a different location, one where people of Polish descent were common (such as the Midwest), or, since she has internalized a lot of the negative comments and so is unable to let the comments of others not affect her, to go ahead and change her name.

"Is there something her posting history that causes you to question her character or veracity rather than considering that she's accurately relaying her experiences?"

Yes, the thread regarding her boyfriend's concerns over her having STDs raised some questions in my mind. It was pointed out (and not by me alone) that she was trying to "fix" her boyfriend, and that this was not healthy for a relationship. Her response was, essentially, "No, I'm not trying to fix him, but I just want him to change this and this stupid behavior and grow up". Sounds like fixing to me, but she is completely unaware of it.

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Wow this is a terrible thread, and I'm not referring to the OP.

With regards to your actual questions:

1). Is it wrong for children to cut each other down over race or is it free speech?

It's both. Not everything that is right or wrong has to be managed bythe government. How that's managed for children is far trickier though, as emotional damage/trauma over this stuff can have very significant effects on a developing mind, which soaks up culutural values like a sponge.

The offenders soak up racist mentallities around them (either through their parents or friends) an from them truly come to believe in racial differences.

The offended soak up racism and that causes them to change their own views on themselves, causing them to loose self respect and confidence etc.

Ultimately, in a proper society parents would be able to control their childrens environments and would not have to subject their children to a public school where this takes place.

However, in the current scheme of things parents are mote or less forced to relenquish control of their childrens environments to the public schools, which means it is then the responsibility of the teachers/principles to ensur that this does not occur on school property/time

A lot of people have this "toughen up" attitude which seriously underestimates the fragility/vulnerability of a childs mind. Here, in an objectivist forum where we often lament the corruption of the students mind by the school system, there should be none of this attitude, as we understand this fragility.

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2) Sgould I change my name?

Absolutely not. You have a choice to live your life through action or reaction, and the latter can often be understood as not living. Changing your name in response to non life threatening issues (like "let's go kill all the 'steins' in the country") means that any time you hear your name you will only be reminded of how you sacrificed your ego.

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OK, more seriously then (emorris having a point there).. As a kid it can be a real problem to be teased about one's ethnicity, because it's often difficult to sort out "in fun" from actual hostility.

As an adult, mere teasing is NOT a problem, you tease back and joke about it (sometimes the best way to piss off the idiot is to appear to revel in what he is dishing out); it's of no more significance than is your choice of football team.

Rank discrimination, ostracism, refusal to patronize a business, etc., can be a real problem--alas it's within their rights to do these things. Actual violence, vandalism, other uses of force, are not, however--not within their rights. But life can be made difficult without any use of force, by bigoted jerks when they are in the majority.

(I find it surprising in addition to appalling that there is genuine anti-Polish bigotry (not just telling jokes) amongst adults in this country... I know about (I am appalled by, but not surprised at, any more) anti-Semitism, and of course racism against groups of a different "color" (all of which is grotesque) but I am surprised to hear, today, of the level of hostility the OP has seen from one group of whites to another. OTOH a lot of it may be anti-Catholic bigotry, which generally crops up from some fundie protestants in smaller towns who only deal with other protestants.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

I live in the southeast, and some of the idiots responding to this thread keep mentioning that baptists have been known to hate catholics and I have said in many posts that it is the baptist majority that is the culprit of it. It doesn't matter that I am agnostic, they are just irrational, they just associate you with catholics and it doesn't matter what you say you are. You can never be objective if you just disbelieve something someone says because it doesn't occur in your area. I've seen the same sort of horrible, brutish discrimination by WASPS and white Russians against jews. The problem is just not the actual bullying itself, but the social ostracism inflicted by the majority, which is not only emotionally handicapping, but makes it difficult to fit into a social circle, not because the other people are racist, but because that's just the way the social hierarchy works, because most people are irrational and copy the majority. They are "cliquey" but not racist. They don't dislike me, but would rather not associate with me because of the baptist's tribal bias. None of them are even aware of such a thing, but they pick up on their distaste through body language etc. and are not interested in being friends with someone who could ruin their social reputation. Think of it as being like a plague that spreads to all these unlikely places.

There is no Polish population in my area, although there is a small Ukrainian/Romanian population. They are semi disliked, but not in the same way Poles are. I knew a Ukrainian girl in my class, and she was kind of shunned just like I was, but she was very smart, studious, and exploitive so she found friends among the academically gifted crowd. I tried to make friends with that same crowd, and I was for a while, but there was a big backlash by them against me for multiple complex reasons and they are the ones who started a lot of rumors about me, so I could never go back to them.

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It doesn't matter that I am agnostic, they are just irrational, they just associate you with catholics and it doesn't matter what you say you are.

I can well believe this.

There's a joke about a guy driving around in Ireland and he is stopped at a roadblock. The toughs manning the roadblock want to know if he is Catholic or Protestant. Not knowing whether these are Provo thugs or IRA thugs, and knowing the wrong answer could get him beaten or worse, he tells them he is an atheist.

The response? "Are you a Catholic Atheist or a Protestant Atheist?"

It's a very common attitude; I just saw a lecture that discussed in part the travails of Jews in medieval Spain who converted to (Catholic) Christianity. These conversos were regarded with suspicion, even unto succeeding generations and the Spanish Inquisition was founded, in large part, as a result of those doubts that they were "really" Christians.

So I would well believe some anti-Catholic baptists somewhere deciding you are still a Catholic just because of your origins, even though you are an agnostic.

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I can well believe this.

There's a joke about a guy driving around in Ireland and he is stopped at a roadblock. The toughs manning the roadblock want to know if he is Catholic or Protestant. Not knowing whether these are Provo thugs or IRA thugs, and knowing the wrong answer could get him beaten or worse, he tells them he is an atheist.

The response? "Are you a Catholic Atheist or a Protestant Atheist?"

It's a very common attitude; I just saw a lecture that discussed in part the travails of Jews in medieval Spain who converted to (Catholic) Christianity. These conversos were regarded with suspicion, even unto succeeding generations and the Spanish Inquisition was founded, in large part, as a result of those doubts that they were "really" Christians.

So I would well believe some anti-Catholic baptists somewhere deciding you are still a Catholic just because of your origins, even though you are an agnostic.

The funny thing is, my Polish family isn't even catholic, they are episcopal. Of course, they're hated too, because they're the "rich city people" just around here to an extent.

Edited by Dreamspirit
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.

It's a very common attitude; I just saw a lecture that discussed in part the travails of Jews in medieval Spain who converted to (Catholic) Christianity. These conversos were regarded with suspicion, even unto succeeding generations and the Spanish Inquisition was founded, in large part, as a result of those doubts that they were "really" Christians.

The inquisition was indeed founded to discern whether the previously converted muslim population had converted back, and the Jews who had lived in Iberia since pre Roman times were finally abandoning their ways if not abandoning the Peninsula.

In Spain's case religion served as the politically correct way of the time to drive out the mixed ethnicity population (including Jews).

Cristiano Viejo meant Old Christian that never converted or had lived in the mountains so it also implied that the Old Christian never had the chance to marry or otherwise mix blood with the Moors.

In order to somehow retain evidence of their status the ex-noble ladies of Christian Goth and Suevian descent protected from the sun during the Muslim Sarrasin occupation until their blueish veins could be seen through their melanin-deprived pale skin; giving origin to the term of "blue blood".

The forced-converted (conversos) from al-Andalus to Spain were also called cristianos nuevos and they were rightfully regarded with suspicion as many of them continued practicing Judaism (marranos) in their homes, and many fled first to Portugal and then to the Americas. There was a time, in Spanish America, that the settlers and criollos would say "I've never met a Portuguese who wasn't a Jew".

Unlike Islam which has a dhimmi system to recognize and live along other religions (but not atheists), Christianity and the Reconquista project demanded the homogenization of the population for the birth of the first Absolute Monarchy of Europe. The discovery and swift colonization of the Americas, the "Conquista" seemed like a good omen of the success of then Reconquista and unification under one monarch,

Maybe, like in 16c Spain, in the Bible Belt religion was (and maybe is) used as thin veiled racism against those who are not obviously apparent of another race. I seem to remember another Tennessee Williams play, Baby Doll in which the Sicilian character (the hero, and btw a righteous entrepreneur) has olive skin and doesn't quiet fit in the white and black Southern society of the 40s or 50s.

Two Tennessee Williams mentions in one thread. wow.

The funny thing is, my Polish family isn't even catholic, they are episcopal. Of course, they're hated too, because they're the "rich city people" just around here to an extent.

If it were just ethnicity then yes, it comes down as you said it to tribal vs territorial morality. However I'm just so sure you'll be able to corroborate and be completely sure of how irrational people can be in your small town once you move to a different (maybe not necessarily less irrational) environment. You'll be able to compare how thinly veiled sadism can be a common entertainment for incredibly bored, normal, adults, and religion, genetics, political parties, sport teams and the famous PTA meetings, can do just as well as symbols and vehicles for that cheap popular way of getting off.

"Young people wonder how the adult world can be so boring. The secret is that it is not boring to adults because they have learnt to enjoy simple things like covert malice at one another's expense. This is why they talk so much about the value of human understanding and sympathy. It has a certain rarity value in their world." -CG

It surely is rare, isn't it?

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" It doesn't matter that I am agnostic, they are just irrational, they just associate you with catholics and it doesn't matter what you say you are."

I think it does matter: I would suspect that you being an agnostic or atheist is, if anything, worse than being a Catholic.

If I were you, I'd move. Why stay in a place where you are apparently so disliked, whatever the reason?

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