I was planning to take a leisurely trip this summer, but now I thinkI’ll have to change my plans. Instead I’ll probably have to take a crashcourse in Sensitivity for the Culturally Unaware. Maybe it’s because I grewup in Chicago, perhaps the most culturally diverse city in the country.
Maybe it’s because I have a mulatto niece and nephew. Maybe it’s because mycousin’s last name is now Hernandez. Maybe it’s because my wife’s cousinis a Native American. Or maybe it’s because we Poles have borne the bruntof more jokes than any other ethnic group, but all this time I thought Iwas aware of other cultures and the feelings of members of other ethnicgroups and minorities. Now I guess I’m not.
At least my union newsletter,the BEA_Messenger, says I’m not in an article on multicultural awareness. Ifor one take pride in our nation’s history in regard to minorities. Minority groups founded this nation. The religious groups who felt thepressure of persecution in their homelands came here to begin new lives,and eventually a new nation. The ethnic groups that came in a great floodof immigrants came to escape the economic oppression of their homelands. Those groups, too, found a way to become part of the American experience.
They didn’t need, nor did they demand, any laws requiring acceptance intosociety. Kindness, tolerance and respect are things that can only beearned, not handed down by legislative decree. Those things mandated by lawnever reach into the fiber of our country. They never take root in ourpsyches.
In fact, as we have too often seen, legislative decrees thatmandate how we should act or feel lead to only more dissension anddivisiveness. Great strides have been taken on the road to equality. Despite claims to the contrary, women have more opportunity now to succeedthan ever before. Today, fifty percent of law school graduates are female. Where twenty years ago perhaps 5000 women were industrial engineers, todaythat profession consists of 175000 females. Blacks, too, have made greatstrides.
They are now mayors, governors, and judges. They hold positionsof authority in almost every segment of our country. We as a nation by andlarge have indeed accepted minorities into the fold of this culture,particularly when those minorities have done much to earn our respect. TheFebruary 21, 1992, issue of the Messenger, however, suggests that I am notmulticulturally aware enough. It suggests that things I say or feel may betaken as derogatory. It smacks of a political correctness and BigBrotherhood, which, if we honestly appraise it, does more to hinder ourFirst Amendment rights than any oppressive behavior of the past.
I ammulticulturally aware enough already without having my union trying toconvince me that I am not. I am particularly upset by the implication thatremarks I may or may not make are derogatory and multiculturally unaware. Ithink, and believe, that people should be treated equally. I also believethat much of what is deemed to be “multiculturally aware” is just plainsilly.
And some of the things in the Messenger article point to this. Itis true that “few of us. . . think that women are the weaker sex. ” It isequally true that most of realize that, unless her name is Bertha orBeulah, few women can bench press the same weight as men, or hit a golfball as far as Jack Nicklaus.
Admittedly, many attractive women have thephysical capabilities of the ancient Amazons, but they usually go by thename of “Blaze” or “Dementia” and appear regularly on American_Gladiatorsor Roller_Derby. Yes, I do become “impatient with elderly people who drivemore slowly” than I do. But, it’s not because they are elderly. It’sbecause I don’t want to wreck the front end of my car by running into backend of a car that is going 35 mph on an interstate highway.
After drunkdriving, the majority of auto accidents are caused by drivers going underthe posted speed limits. I do not, however, become impatient with elderlypeople who “stow their change before moving from the check-out counter. “They’re not stowing their change. The experience of their years has taughtthem that half the cashiers in the country don’t know how to make change,and they’re just making sure they don’t get gypped.
I now have to suspectthe wisdom of saying certain things, according to the Messenger. Saying ofmy son, “He’s all boy,” is wrong now. So, too, is saying that he and hisfriends are “acting like a bunch of savages. ” So I can’t tell them to “sitIndian style” for a while and behave themselves. I don’t understand thisat all. I certainly don’t want an hermaphrodite for a son.
But if he was,I still wouldn’t want him acting like a savage when we are supposedlycivilized. As for the act of sitting on the floor cross-legged, which isnot to be confused with the sitting position of meditation known as theLotus position, I can think of no other way to say it other than Indianstyle. By the time I got, “sit on the floor cross-legged, etc. . . .
” out ofmy mouth, my son and his friends would turn into all boys again and startrunning around like savages. The Messenger asks if I feel that a boy whoplays with dolls is less masculine. Boys have always played with toysoldiers. Today’s G. I.
Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figuresare still dolls by any other name. When they start playing “Let’s dresslike Barbie,” though, I think it’s time to worry. I’m not willing to havemy son put on a dress at an early age just to see if he turns out likeErnest Hemingway. I must admit that at times I must remind him to stopbeing “all boy” and that his sister is not a member of the evil Cobra Forceor Foot Clan.
Next, the Messenger asks if I feel that eating a pig is moreacceptable than eating a dog. As I am neither Jewish nor vegetarian, inwhich case I would really be upset by the question, I will pretty much eatanything on the plate as long as it isn’t still moving. Any Pole who canslurp down a bowl of czardnina (duck blood soup to those of you who areculturally unaware) ought to be able to handle a portion or two of Roverala Carte. I am wondering, though, how this eating of dogs fits into theagenda of the animal rights activists. Are they planning to travel toEastern countries and tell them to stop eating dogs and start chewing downa few brats and beer instead just to keep the pigs represented equally onthe world’s dinner table? In perhaps a final attempt to make its point, theMessenger asks how I would feel if a black family bought the house nextdoor.
Given that my brother-in-law was black, I supposed I should be theone who is insulted by this question. It’s just as silly as the otherpoints made in the article. Nobody in their right mind wants anybodyliving next door to them. All of us would probably prefer that our nearestneighbors were forty miles away and the only way they could contact us wasby dog sled. Since we can’t have that ideal, we settle for anybody who cankill dandelions and cuts their grass on a regular basis. We would alsorequire that they keep their dog from pooping in our yard.
We would likethem to do the same things with their kids, not have a lot of large, loudparties, and not have the cops pull up in front of their house every othernight. Most of us have never given much thought to the question, but whenwe do, we decide we don’t give a hoot. I don’t presume to know about othercultures. My perceptions of other cultures can only be based onexperience.
That is why I plan on attending that Summer Camp for theCulturally Unaware. I do have one condition to place upon my attendance atthis camp. Whoever is running the camp, perhaps even the person who wrotethe Messenger piece. has to attend a camp that I am starting down the roadfrom them. It’s called Summer Camp for the Multiculturally Without a Clue. Every night we have czardnina and hot dogs for supper.
Then we sit Indianstyle around a campfire. Boys and girls are welcome regardless of race,religion or creed.