Heritage: More than a Word

Good Morning from the Fog and Flame,

So this morning I got up at a reasonable time for a break (8:00 a.m.) and did a little work around the house and fixed my second breakfast of a changed diet ( a healthier one). It was quite the event to go shopping yesterday and try to stay away from processed sugar. Oh my goodness, amazing where we find sugars. I had plantains again for breakfast. I have never been a big banana person and I think I might need to ask for some pointers from my favorite plantain-eaters for more ways to prepare them. They certainly have more fiber than many other things I have eaten. I did step on the scale this morning and I have dropped 13 lbs . . . about 20 more to go. Otherwise . . .  things are getting organized.

As I sit here I am listening to Celtic Woman, which seems apropos on two accounts: one, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and two, which is really more important,  it is my heritage (and I enjoy their music, which is a bonus) and I feel connected to something when I listen. It is hard for me to even know what that something is because it was never really talked about or lifted up. I think that is because my parents come from that generation where you needed to be American. In spite of being part of the “melting pot”, it seems the consequence of that metaphor was to be so amalgamated that you lost your ethnic identity. More importantly, holding on to it seems it might have been viewed as unpatriotic. I remember my Great-aunt Martha speaking Norwegian. I also remember going to Dana College, a Danish Lutheran College, was another place where the ethnic heritage of the people and place was celebrated. I can imagine where some might see such a celebration as elitist, but why must it be viewed as such? Just like most other things: when we do not understand it, it frightens us. When we are not included, we automatically feel excluded, maligned, marginalized (choose your term).

Perhaps one of the amazing gifts I have received lately comes from those people I have met who celebrate (at least usually) their Dominican heritage. Perhaps celebrate is the wrong term (even though it shouldn’t have to be), they embrace and appreciate that heritage. As a person who studied history as an undergraduate at Dana, I am reminded of what we can learn when we honestly – and I understand that seems to be a relative term, which again shouldn’t be – consider history, most of what we do is oppressive. We (as humans) are all to often ready to judge that which is different. It does not matter if it is language, food, clothing, customs, traits . . .  we always have two options. First, we can embrace and attempt to learn (that would be when we can truly celebrate) or second, we can run away. More often than not, we either intentionally, or inadvertently, do the second. Even if it is unintentional the result is the same. We tell that other person he or she is less than, different than, we are, but more importantly, we imply that difference is wrong or unacceptable.

The other evening I was a dinner and the my dinner guest noted that he or she looked different than anyone else there. I have pondered that ever since. What a sad way to have to understand where one lives. It saddens me. I remember thinking as I have read student papers (especially their memoirs) their work forces me to realize that I wake up each day privileged; I have a good job and it is a respected position, but I am also a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male (WASP male). While there is certainly talk about reverse discrimination, it is nothing compared to what I see some of my students struggle to overcome. What are my innate biases? Why do I hope to overcome them? Probably, at least in my view, because it is the right thing to do. I am reminded of the song from the Puppet Musical Avenue Q, “Everyone is a little bit Racist”. That musical, which was superbly done by the BU Players this past fall, really does what another format could not do. If forces anyone with half-a-brain to be introspective.

So as I think about my ethnic heritage, along with the other cleaning and rearranging I am doing, may I work more intentionally to embrace the astounding diversity that I find around me every day. For now, it is back to work and trying to make sure that I continue to be as organized and productive as I can.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin (aka: a mutt with Norwegian, Irish, English, German, French Canadian, and Native American heritage . . . may I learn to appreciate them all. I am all these things in a land that offers a lot to many, even in spite of its problems)

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