Letter to the editor

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I am not a journalist. I am not a sociologist. I still haven’t even been accepted into the CTVA major yet! However, I am a very disgruntled Irish-Italian kid from South Philly, and I have something to say.

Throughout the course of my longest day of the week here at CSUN, I usually just sit around and people watch. Until Nov. 26, I had yet to even read one article in the Daily Sundial; which, in case you haven’t noticed, is that thing you usually find on the ground strewn about the campus.

At first, I was enthralled as I peered into a delightful article about a seminar held here on campus about early man and how he co-existed with other pre-humans. Then, after finishing the aforementioned article, my attention was garnered by a title which I thought kind of funny, it read, “Discrimi-Nation: Other Americans” which I thought a little quirky being that, unless you’re Native American, you are in the category of “Other Americans”. Nonetheless, being that class didn’t start for another half-hour I read on.

I haven’t been this pissed since my brother broke my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Van when I was ten. The journalist purported the notion that those people who inquire as to what race, ethnicity or culture one may be, are engaging in subversive racism.

Now, the author does state, “Why do people who never say more than three words to me at a time want to know?” which I agree with. Because if a stranger came up to me and said, “How are you, are you a McK”, I’d be more than glad to show them what the backside of a shillelagh looks like. Yet, at no point in the article does he give credence to why anyone would ever genuinely want to know. In fact he declares curiosity is, “a very vague explanation”.

Apparently, the writer must be speaking about a new dimensional America in which everyone is the same race, they leave each other alone, and have seemingly very little social skills; which I believe was also in an episode of South Park. I say this because any third-grader who isn’t busy playing Halo can tell you that America is a melting pot.

Right or wrong this country was founded, propelled to the apex of civilization, and is still run today by immigrants. So, when I read something which states ideas so politically correct and safe, as a proud American citizen, I flip my lid.

I feel a problem, just as prevalent today as discrimination against other races, cultures ethnicities, etc. is the fear of embracing ones’ own cultural identity. People are too afraid to acknowledge that at some point their ancestors huddled on an oversold ocean liner, got crammed into a rickety old bus, or were even smuggled into this country. When I think of America I think of the best culture the world has produced so far, because we are the cultures of the world.

So, when a journalist states, “When people ask what I am, they’re telling me people’s skin color or stereotypes associated with their physical appearance matters a lot to them” I reach for something to throw. When I met someone new at some point in our conversation, when I have gauged whether or not this person is amiable, as a form of keeping an interesting discourse, I’ll ask, “So, what are you?” and then I’ll try to guess before they can answer, which can be quite fun. Our friendly counter-part says however, “They ask me if I’m white, Latino, Armenian, Hebrew or Greek, so I know physical appearance matters to them”, I am utterly dumbfounded. To suggest that it’s either racist or superficial to conjecture of what ethnicity one is comprised is racist itself, because that suggests that if you call someone by the “incorrect” ethnicity you are then insulting them in an almost xenophobic way.

What my esteemed colleague is missing is that people ask these questions as a way to form an identity amongst individuals. To use myself as a guinea pig, or Guinea Pig-American to be politically correct, I’m Italian. If I ask a person if they’re something it’s to see what parts of their cultures are similar to mine. So, in this way we can form a bond of own. Besides, when people of any race or creed are broken down to their simplest ideals each one is exactly the same, and those ideals are, but are not limited to: To have a family, to have security, to have fun. The only difference between us may lie in the gradation in which we emphasize any one of these three things.

In America people are proud of their ethnicity, because when their families came to this country that’s all they had. To be blunt, when any new group of people starts emigrating here, the ones that are already here are beyond cruel. The Irish were thought of as drunken monkeys and the Italians as poor monkey grinding mobsters. This part is nothing new, but each group that comes here must stand up and be proud of who they are, and prove their people’s self-worth. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have generations of people in this country with mixed backgrounds.

The fact is that discrimination exists in every country, because in every country there are ignorant people. People have to be willing to say, “This is who am I this is what I’m like, and my family history is a part of that as well, so take it or leave it.”

Brendan McKnight