There was Chapter One and then Chapter Two so I guess you can consider this Chapter Three.
I suppose what I was getting at, if indeed I had any point in mind, was that I don’t consider myself white because the world around me didn’t consider me white. I did refer to ‘white boys’ usually I refer to “Anglos” which encompasses ethnicity and culture because I don’t get Anglo culture – very different from mine up to and including food.
When I lived in the Bronx amongst a variety of people, most of whom looked like me, I don’t think I had an identity problem (my Aunt Margie and Sheryl notwithstanding). It wasn’t until we moved to a very white, middle class, white collar neighborhood in Queens that the disconnect began. Also I was 8 when we moved and I was just then becoming aware of what was socially acceptable.
Social media, such as it was back in the 1950’s, was blond, blue-eyed, Anglo oriented. For some reason what comes to mind was the cover of Parade magazine, then as now a Sunday newspaper insert, with a cover photo of the perfect American teens – and they sure as hell didn’t look like me or live like me. Television and movies were no different.
Two anecdotes, from a lifetime of similar encounters:
When I was 11 I joined the Congregational Church. This particular congregation was, judging by last names and appearances, Scandinavian, German and let’s just call it British, in ethnicity. I was welcomed warmly. Came Christmas time, since I was the new kid, I was assigned the role of an angel in the Christmas pageant. I refused the part. I told the Sunday School Superintendent that I couldn’t be angel because “I’ve never seen an angel with black hair.”
My mother later told me that this lady stopped my mother in the supermarket and related the conversation to her and then added that she was taken aback by my statement and looked for pictures of angels with black hair and couldn’t find any.
Fast forward many years later – early 2000’s. I’m in my late 50’s. My best friend of 10 years, Diane, was a biracial woman with light skin, freckles but who identified Black and had stereotypical Black features. She and her daughter-in-law Von, who I had known almost as long as I had known Diane, were in my dining room and I was in the kitchen making tea when this conversation happened:
Von: What do you mean she isn’t Black?
Diane (laughing): She’s Italian (pronounced Eye-talian – Diane is Southern to the core).
Von: But Mom, her skin is darker than yours!
I came out of the kitchen, laughing, and said to Von “You thought I was Black? What – did you think I just had good hair?”
Thinking about it now, I realize that I grew to feel that I didn’t belong anywhere to any group. Yet everyone thought I belonged to them except for Anglos. I was taken for every nationality except Northern European. Greeks thought I was Greek, Italians thought I was Italian, Spaniards thought I was Spanish, Israelis thought me Israeli and so on. At various stages of my life, and looks, I was also assumed to be part Native American and even Eurasian (Oh those high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes and that yellow-brown skin…)
As my hair has gotten lighter with age so has my skin. And I don’t think people really register me as being any ethnicity at all. Now I am just old and that’s all people seem to need to know or relate to.
4 thoughts on “Doing a quick wrap up because I’m no longer interested”
Awesome, the blog name changed and moved but it’s showing up here. Didn’t have to refollow you.
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Yeah, it gets complicated. I had to buy a new domain name and delete the old domain name and now I’m having a bit of trouble with the gravatar link but I’ll get it straightened out.
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I missed whatever caused the blog move but I love the new name! Your experience as a Italian child in NYC surprises me so much because my idea of NYC has always been that it’s where everyone from everywhere can be found so angels with black hair should’ve been normal to see. For people to have either been put in boxes or left out of groups because of their ethniticity doesn’t fit in that view. I suppose since we still have race issues today I shouldn’t be so suprised!
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Lisa saw it before I did but once I did see it the moving and deleting and blocking began in earnest. As for the rest – I’m sure you’ve read about people/groups who complain about not being represented in all areas of entertainment and social media. Well if that’s the case NOW imagine what it was like 75 years ago!
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