Subtle Flow Of U.S. Ethnic Biases — Rick Sanchez, etc

“ Yeah, very powerless people. [laughs] He’s such a minority. I mean, you know, please. What—are you kidding? I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority?

Now about to turn 78 in a few days it occurred to me that I have lived through a series of evolving ethic prejudices — sadly in which the previously oppressed all too often become the new oppressors.

My life conscious experience began in West Hartford, Connecticut, and an outer suburb, Farmington, where we moved and built a home in the middle of an ancient apple orchard looking downward to the west from the lower reaches of Avon Mountain. After early years in our local public school I moved along to several Connecticut prep schools (one day and the other sleep away), a BASS scholarship to a British private school (“The King is dead. Long live the Queen!”), Yale where I was the chairman of the Yale Daily News, Union Theological Seminary in NYC, Mansfield College Oxford, and finally Columbia for a Ph.D. in legal philosophy — and teaching happily at a string of schools before settling in at our primary port of entry college, Brooklyn, CUNY.

The long and short here is that I have seen the shifts in prejudices in the U.S. in contrast with Britain and several other European countries which I visited. The European ones tend to be ethnocentric — some times with several variations in particular nations, e.g. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Back to early life experiences, Connecticut was viciously anti-Semitic until the horrors of the Holocaust hit us. Even then things moved gradually — Yale, until I editorialized against the prejudice, preferred admitting Jews with German or British surnames but “not too many of those Eastern European types!” Thus spake to me our principal admissions officer. It really hurt blowing his cover, but that spurred Yale to break some of its patterns of prejudice and with them the rest of the Ivies and seven sisters eventually — I saw this happening at my first teaching job at Vassar where women’s rights were also starting to move.

Echoed here were what were some of the lesser degrees of ostracism — against Irish, Italian, and Polish Americans in descending order. African American schools still held our segregated former slaves. Counting up, then, west of Hartford where most Jews lived, there was west of Avon Mountain one Jewish family – a grocery/liquor store owner in a poor enclave, Oakland Gardens, which he gradually bought up to became its collective landlord. Farmington, itself, fit this slope model. West of Main St. to the River lived Roman Catholics — Irish and Italian and their church. East of Main St. up the hill housed the two Protestant churches and Anglo Saxons. The Poles either farmed in the (literally flood plains (between Farmington and Avon) or lived in scattered locations and worked in the factories of New Britain, a lower middle class to poor town south west of Hartford. One of my summer jobs in construction was done for Joe Basine (originally Bazinsky), a family friend. I built for him houses for Polish factory workers. I also worked another summer for a scrap metal operation owned by a fine Jewish family (the Suismans) which was the only employer of African American men in the region (women did housework) who sent some to college (the boss was a Yale grad who also gave me $1,000 toward my seminary studies at oxford).

Needless to say the only African Americans living outside of a small ghetto in central Hartford) was a couple that did housework for a wealthy Anglo gentleman farmer (ran for governor later and lost).

Hopefully our anti Latin American biases will fade. If you read the Rich Sanchez quote above, you will see it misquotes him from the simplified versions that made him a bigot in the media. He is pointing out that Jews are no longer flayed with prejudice here. I hope the abuses of the Palestinians will not change that. My peace activist friends in Israel and Palestine are very worried by that possible outcome.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent [blind copies]

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