Posts tagged ‘immigration’

Diasporan Song and Story

New post on Way of the Sacred Fool, my Witches & Pagans blog, is Diasporan Song & Story. This is about how we form identities as diasporan settler-colonial Americans, the stories we tell about who we are, sorting out our concept of mythic American-ness vs. the harsh realities of history.

A couple other interesting posts related to American paganism & spiritual practice- The Magical Battle for America– this is the latest in an ongoing series of meditations & workings by Hecate Demeter, for it to be truly effective it would probably be best to go back to her earlier posts, but annoyingly she doesn’t seem to categorize or tag them. I think I may have linked to some of her previous posts that were in this vein. Related to this is Terence Ward’s post about magically combating the miasma that clouds our understanding of the electoral system.



September 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

Regional/Cultural Divisions in North America

There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.

American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!

The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book

Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)

Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger

**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)

After reading  reviews I would NOT recommend these-

Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.

How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.


Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!

I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.

Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.

August 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

Big White Lies

This post is written with some tough love for my fellow People of Pale, it is based on things I have seen or heard people say countless times, in all kinds of social settings, both offline & online. I’m sick of seeing people repeating the same stupid stuff, electing people who use race to divide and conquer the poor, working and middle classes. And hurting and alienating their neighbors, co-workers, relatives, etc.

Note: these are listed intentionally so the most offensive/extreme statements being debunked are at the bottom to make it slightly less triggery.

Real Americans Speak English!

Interesting opinion- you should try sharing that with some American Indians, oh yeah and the folks of Mexican descent whose land was taken as part of the U.S. after the Spanish-American War. I’m sure that *all* your ancestors instantly spoke perfectly unaccented English the second they got off the boat. They never did anything so shocking as to teach schools in the own native language, have newspapers in it, or worship services in Swedish, Polish, German et al. Actually…they did. And native-born Americans complained about it and said all the same nasty things you’re saying now. Immigrants have every incentive to learn English when they come here, but it is a difficult language to learn and it takes time. Have you studied another language, especially one that was very foreign to an English-speaker, like Chinese? Doing so might help you develop empathy for these folks.

Reverse Racism- in general

Racism doesn’t just mean hating or discrimination based on skin color, it also means a *system of oppression* against people based on skin color. Now and then people may proclaim the general suckiness of white people, insult you (honkie! redneck! oh the pain!) However you are not surrounded by messages from the media & society all your life telling you that by virtue of your skin color, you are assumed to be a criminal, no matter how hard you try to be “respectable”- you can wear the so-called right clothes, have an education, be a doctor or lawyer etc. and still be assumed to be “up to no good” by your mere existence.

See this video for an awesome explanation of “reverse racism” from comedian Aamer Rahman

Reverse Racism- Affirmative Action, specifically

You *just know* you would’ve gotten that job, that contract or that spot at Stanford if it weren’t for Those People getting affirmative action. You deserve it! You worked hard! I think you can have non-racist arguments against affirmative action, but claiming “reverse racism” and discrimination against white people are not those arguments. Affirmative action has been outlawed or severely curtailed in many states, so do your homework before you complain. Also if you’re so concerned about fairness, take a look at those legacy scholarships, merit scholarships (which more often children of the upper-middle class benefit from) It may be less obvious, but there is likely some type of “Affirmative Action for Whitey” that you’ve benefited from.

But Obama is President Therefore Racism is Over!!!

Not sure if people are still making this argument, considering all the racist stuff that has been tossed our President’s way. Like how his Dad was from Kenya, therefore Barack was born in the exotic African nation of….Hawaii. Yep. How dare a Black man use an executive order, ever!! Bush and Reagan never did…oh wait.

They Can’t Be “Proud” of Being White

Doesn’t that suck that those Racist People Over There, that *you’re totally not like at all* ruined the white pride thing for ya? Remember those immigrant ancestors of yours I discussed earlier? A lot of them weren’t considered “white” when they first came here. Irish, Italians, Jewish folks, Poles, Slavs etc. they were all considered members of races inferior to upper-class English Protestants. Whiteness is a social construct- it just means you can’t be enslaved and the police are less likely to assume you’re a criminal just by looking at you. Why be proud of that? It’s fine to be proud of your ethnic background, so long as you don’t claim it’s better than anyone else’s.

Genocide/Ethnic Cleansing– Say what? If you’re worried about this, I doubt you’ll be reading this blog anyway, but just for the sake of inclusion.

Are you worried about natural blondes & redheads dying out? That could happen eventually, but seriously doesn’t the world have bigger problems? There is a history and (it still happens) in the United States, Australia & Canada of forced sterilization of people with disabilities, Black, Latina & Native women, immigrants and poor people. This was advocated by both conservatives & progressives before the Nazis made eugenics look bad. You’re worried about being a minority? Just a memo- so-called “white” people have been a global minority for most of human history- you just didn’t notice because of your Eurocentric worldview!

(OK, so I may re-write this later so it’s less sarcastic, but writing it was very therapeutic, and perhaps reading it will be for some people. You have to laugh to keep from crying, sometimes!)

December 5, 2014 at 12:31 am Leave a comment

Gentrification and Mixed Feelings

Alley Valkyrie has written yet another amazing essay, this one about her experiences living in a working-class Afro-Caribbean neighborhood, and how her presence there helped lead to gentrification. (link to be added!) I’m long-time city-dweller with mixed-class status and white privilege as well as a live-in caretaker of a home in which I rent out rooms to low income tenants. So yeah, I have a very complex relationship with gentrification. Neighborhoods need to be maintained and improved, yet a balance must be maintained as well. Likewise, I don’t really believe that there are “good” and “bad” neighborhoods. Those are big over-simplications with many unexamined assumptions lurking behind them.  

My neighborhood, Midway in St. Paul has fluctuated in its reputation over the time I’ve lived here. Back in 1994 my dad drove by and spotted the house and made an offer to the owner that very day. Apparently my neighbors thought he overpaid for it at the time. Many of the neighbors were elderly or middle-aged empty-nesters. There were only a handful of kids I knew, mostly younger than me. Over time, a bunch of them have moved away and younger couples (with and without kids) have moved in. There was a tattoo parlor close by (much to my parents’ chagrin), and several businesses later there’s one there again! Midway had a worse reputation then. My Dad, who is from the suburbs of Philadelphia originally, strongly believes in fighting the trends of middle-class white flight (a social trend which has had a terrible effect on Philly and many other metro areas) by staying vigilant and aware of what’s going on. He and other neighbors in our block club were in frequent contact with the police about activities they found suspicious- cars stalling by our large privacy fence might mean drug deals. Lots of people going in and out of a house might mean a drug house. And so forth. So with this vigilance, the neighborhood got better, but we try not to be complacent. We continually need to keep an eye on things. I still get comments from people, especially from suburbs about where I live. “You live there, really? Well, at least it’s not Frogtown!”  Frogtown, or Thomas-Dale is nearby, and I don’t really consider it “worse” than Midway. Different in flavor, more like. When I take the (newly finished as of June!) Green line light rail down University Avenue, I notice both neighborhoods have a mix of businesses that are newer, or have been fixed up, and ones that are run-down, and vacant buildings and a few empty lots that are waiting to be bought. There are somewhat more of the latter in Frogtown, but there are also improvements in the works. There are lots of immigrants from Southeast Asia- Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia. Many of them have lived here for a couple of generations at least. There are more recent immigrants from Northeastern Africa- chiefly Ethiopia & Somalia. There are Black Americans and European American whose families have live in this country much longer. I suppose this diversity scares some people, but I find their own ignorance scarier. I think the mix of cultures makes things interesting. For one, I can go have Cambodian for dinner, then have breakfast at the Finnish bistro the next morning!

We have Hamline University, and not too far away, Macalester College and St. Catherine’s, St. Thomas, and in the other direction, the University of Minnesota.  Having all these educational institutions nearby. Oddly though, I’ve never rented to any students before (as my parents and many neighbors expected to happen), I’ve gotten a few Craiglist responses from students, and shown the house to a few, but none of them ever worked out.

Just as with things in nature, neighborhoods and cities have cycles. And different neighborhoods and cities go thru phases of the cycles at different times. I could do some homework on urban studies and sociology to get into more , but I intuitively know what some these cycles are without doing that. I’ve watched them over the years just as I see the dramatic turns of Minnesota seasons. I already mentioned one- generational cycles. Waves of people often move in or out of a neighborhood at particular times. Individual buildings and businesses go thru cycles. A change in one individual’s decision of where to live, or whether to renovate their home or business or build a new one, influences others decisions. Each neighborhood and city has its own social and economic balance that it needs to maintain in order for people to get what they need. And within a metropolitan area like the Twin Cities, each adjoining town or city tries to find niches to fill within that context. Within a city, a neighborhood tries to figure out its own niche. In St. Paul and Minneapolis, each neighborhood has a name and a council (some are larger, more organized and do more things than others, and it also depends on what other non-profits exist that focus on that area, or if a city or state government decides to fund a special business development program there and so forth.
I feel my neighborhood is pretty good about maintaining the necessary equilibrium, without going into full-blown gentrification mode.

September 5, 2014 at 3:39 am Leave a comment


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